Monday, September 30, 2013

The Dinner: Gone Girl's European second cousin twice removed

I had this preconception that The Dinner was not a good book, and I will tell you why: It is loudly and aggressively touted as the “European Gone Girl.”

Look, I didn’t MIND Gone Girl. It was fine. But stop comparing everything that has printed words to Gone Girl just because you think it will make people buy it. That’s annoying. I already read that book. I don’t want to read that book again.

In the case of THIS book, it has maybe two things in common with Gone Girl. It has twice as many things in common with The Princess Bride.

That's not one of the things.

Also, trusted fellow book blogger Rayna was pleased but maybe a little underwhelmed, and other trusted book blogger Australian Kayleigh wasn't whelmed enough to write a review.

So WHY did I willingly step in as the 252nd person on the hold list at the library? Oh, I don’t know . . . can YOU resist a mysterious plot happening when it’s dangled in front of your face like a cheese doodle? WELL THEN, you’re a stronger person than I, sir or madam.

If you say to me, “And then this thing happens . . . but it’s kind of meh,” I will say to you, “WHAT WAS THE THING TELL ME THE THIIIIIIIING.” And no one would in this instance. So I had to read the damn book myself.

And you know what? I quite liked it.

When it starts out, the narrator is this sort of misanthropic, curmudgeonly Dutch guy who is really grumpy about going with his wife to meet this other couple for dinner. So for the first maybe 100 pages, I was imagining a Steve Coogan type snarking in my ear about waitresses with identical ponytails and plates with tiny, fancy food.
The first thing that struck you about Claire’s plate was its vast emptiness. Of course, I’m well aware that, in the better restaurants, quality takes precedence over quantity, but you have voids and you have voids. The void here, that part of the plate on which no food at all was present, had clearly been raised to a matter of principle.
It was as though the empty plate was challenging you to say something about it, to go to the open kitchen and demand an explanation. "You wouldn’t even dare!" the plate said, and laughed in your face. (p. 43)
Just eat your tiny food and shush.

But this awkward dinner for four progresses through one course after another, and the subject matter—both in the narrator’s head and out loud at the dinner table—takes a turn for the decidedly darker and less comedic. And I liked that development, too.

You see, I have no hesitations about reading a book with no relatable or redeemable characters. And I think maybe that’s what people were keying in to when they started obsessively calling this the “European Gone Girl.” But it’s just not an accurate comparison. If it’s anything, it’s the European American Psycho.

Only if it's TINY sorbet.

It has a much more satirical lean than Gone Girl, and it definitely falls heavily into the realm of social commentary—AND other similarities that would be spoilers, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I will say, however, that this is not nearly as uncomfortable as American Psycho. It’s no picnic (except for the part where they eat food and stuff), but there are no starved rats or jumper cables, I assure you.

And as long as we’re comparing things to other things, I would also add that it has a dash of God of Carnage. Because the couples are meeting to discuss some shenanigans their sons have gotten up to, and there is much bickering.

Now . . . can I interest you in a cheese doodle?


  1. Well that doesn't make me feel terrible AT ALL, Emily. Not even a little. *hurriedly searches for your review* *finds it 5 hours later*

    OMG, Emily. If I had known you loved it so much I would not have felt so bad about myself when *I* loved it so much. We really need to work on our communication.

  2. Guilt. It makes the world go 'round. And I went back and checked and it's not exactly like I wrote a full review of the book. You're *totally* off the hook.

    In other news, do you think I need to read American Psycho? I have always put off reading it because something about Bret Easton Ellis annoys me AND it looks highly disturbing.

  3. Mmm, cheese doodle mysteries.

    WHAT ARE THE OTHER SIMILARITIES TO AMERICAN PSYCHO?? Are there severed body parts in unexpected places? Drama revolving around business cards? Something to do with a cat and an ATM? (I have not actually read this book, just seen the movie. I figure I'm covered, though.)

    THE DINNER's already on my TBR and I'm definitely still looking forward to reading it. I'm glad you liked it.

  4. I am so scared of reading the reviews out there because this is on my wish-list and I will never be able to read it *ugly cries*
    But I caught that you liked it, so now I'll be off to ugly cry some more about how I'm being deprived of this one!

  5. I... Really wish you hadn't said that thing about the starved rats because OMG American Psycho trauma flashback. (I have read that book twice now. TWICE. What is wrong with me?)

    Anyway. I got this out of the library a while ago and then took it back without reading it because guilt at all the books I own, plus I had to pack everything... But I'm sort of interested in it? Only less so because you've brought up American Psycho. So... Hmmm.

  6. God of Carnaaaaaage.

    Also I am delighted when you like a book. Unless it's GoT. Obviously.

  7. I have gone through a lot of emotions with your review. Cos I sorta want to read it, though others are so underwhelmed (or just whelmed) by it. Then I'm thinking "nah I think this looks good, perhaps I should read it." THEN you bring up American Psycho and OMG THE RAT now I'm thinking about that. I know you say the rats AREN'T there, but I'm still picturing them now and...ugh.

  8. Ahaha I juust commented with kinda the same thing (I should prob read other comments before leaving my own). Now I'm just thinking about that stupid rat in the stupid book. Stupid American Psycho.

  9. It's similar to American Psycho in only good ways? But I'm sorry about those traumatic rat memories.

  10. Well you'll only have to deal with me liking GoT for at least...however many books there are in that series.

  11. I'M SORRY. But it really did remind me of American Psycho and I had to be HONEST with you. Why, for the LOVE OF GOD, did you read that book twice? I mean, I own it, but I'm never reading at again.

    I think you would like this, Laura. Now you have to read it so we can see if I'm right.

  12. It's not THAT disturbing. I promise. You could probably handle it. I BELIEVE IN YOU. *cheer fingers*

  13. You're totally covered with the movie. But I won't be telling you what the other similarities are because you will read it and THEN you will see.

  14. We can't agree on EVERYTHING, I suppose. Only ALMOST everything.

  15. Bret Easton Ellis is LITERALLY the worst. I used to follow him on Twitter, but I had to stop because his tweets were so masturbatory they would ruin my whole day. BUT he does have some interesting ideas. And a lot of those are in American Psycho. But it's HIGHLY disturbing, so I hesitate to recommend it ever. If you've seen the movie (which is a little tamer), you've got the general idea.

  16. Currently five, but I suggest you stop reading after #3. Not that you'll be able to because STUFF HAPPENS and then the book ENDS and then real fans (cough) have to wait SIX YEARS for book 4 - which sucks.

  17. I straight up LOVED this book and I reckon you just didn't bother reading my review, didja? Didja?!

    I also had the fortune to come at this book TOTALLY blind. I didn't know the plot, I didn't know it was set in Amsterdam, I didn't know it had any dark twists. FACT: when I read the opening chapter, I thought it was set in LA and was really bougie and almost didn't keep reading it. But it was published by Hogarth and my sales rep said that it was really good, so I kept reading and my, but it took a turn for the dark side. And then it was whoa.

  18. I'm glad you liked it, especially since I ho-hummed it on that IG post!

    I thought it was fine but I couldn't summon up anything to say about it in a review. I found the characters unlikeable, which is fine I like unlikeable, but I also didn't find them interesting enough to engage me.