Herman Koch’s The Dinner met with tremendous success worldwide and I still think it has some literary value, but this next one, about a seriously flawed medical doctor and his dysfunctional family and friends, seems to me like a quick cash grab follow up. This is a weak novel with no point.
Though a difficult book to read, The Dinner certainly seemed to have some merit in raising interesting issues and examining middle class morality. But after hearing several interviews with the author and reading another one of his books, I have come to the conclusion that he really just likes writing about disgusting people and there is no further purpose, there are no underlying themes. He simply believes that people, given the chance and the right circumstances, will behave badly. Finish.
I’m not against reading books about awful people if there is a point to it, if there is some character development, if there is some redemption somewhere. Or if the writing is good and shines a light on the reality of darkness in our world and helps us deal with it. Darkness in the hands of a good novelist can be very meaningful. But Koch ticks none of these boxes. I picked it up mostly because it is translated from the Dutch. I kept reading because the author built in a bit of intrigue and I wanted to find out what was going to happen. And I kept expecting it to improve, but it never did.