Author: Herman Koch (Sam Garrett, translator)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
An odd, sarcastic, brutal, and unsympathetic little book, and hard to categorize. There is a bit of the feel of slice of life, but then also a tinge of mystery/thriller, and parts that feel nearly satirical. Other reviews have likened it to Gone Girl (per an unreliable narrator) and American Psycho (for the way there is offhand violence and mocking of upper class pretension).
The set piece is an upscale Dutch restaurant, the main players are four adults (two brothers and their wives), the mostly off-stage players are the children of the couples (one biological son each, plus a single adopted son). Told from the point of view of the younger, less successful brother, the novel opens and goes on for a few chapters where the reader (absent outside influences) will think this might just be a cutting commentary on the upper class and preoccupation with one's station and reputation.
But slowly things begin to worm their way in - hints and remembrances, offhand statements and stolen glances. And things become increasingly sinister and discomfiting. In the end, you leave this book with no likable characters, a stomach-turning conclusion, and a good deal to think about. Unlike American Psycho, the violence is controlled and not over the top, and in that way it is more disturbing. A strange book that I can't say I liked, but did make me think.