The Dinner by Herman Koch Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Dinner

Plot Summary Part 4

Paul refuses so Claire does it herself, taking a broken wine glass and cutting his face so badly that he needs several surgeries to recover.

Claire reveals that she knows that Paul has stopped taking his crazy pills. That's ok with her, because she likes the violent Paul.

As a result, Serge keeps their secret but loses his election. His scarred face freaked everyone out. Incredibly, Serge never presses charges against Claire for scarring him terribly.

Michel's secret remains hidden. Faso is either gone and/or dead. It doesn't look like anyone cares. Claire remarks that if he had been a biological son he never would have tried to blackmail his brother. And, big theme here, because Michel is her biological son, she did whatever she could to protect him.

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Paul remarks that he and Claire and Michel share something now. He doesn't say what it is, but it is obvious--a passion for violence! He feels closer to his violent family as a result.

Paul learns that Claire knew that Michel was getting bad genes and could be a violent Frankenstein child. Claire never told him this but decided not to abort Michel. She's on board with this.

When Michel comes home with Faso's blood on him everyone has a big laugh and hugs each other. The end.


The first 100 pages are really slow and boring. There is nothing but small talk. Smalltalk about food, small talk about a party from the distant past, small talk about the way a bearded man urinates, etc. It takes 20 pages just to establish who is related to who. When Paul sees the incriminating video on Michel's cell phone, it takes dozens of pages for him to reveal what he's seen.

That's not dramatic. That's not good writing. That's a cock tease.

But the book really picks up around the 200 page mark, becoming a story showing how angry people behave in life and how parents try to protect their children. It essentially becomes a different book. The editor should have trimmed down the first 100 pages.

Also, all the descriptions of food were cutesy and irrelevant. I skipped them all.

Much of the book was a good portrait of how psychotic, angry people live their lives. But I felt there wasn't much of a story. We are given one, two, three, four, five examples of how violent Paul is in flashbacks. It's too much repetition. It feels like padding for the story. This entire novel could have been told as a short story. To be a novel I think it needed to be developed with more of a plot.

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