Dinner – not always all about happy families

book coverAs is frequently the case for me, I arrived at work one day last week to find a mystery book on my reserve shelf.  I still can’t figure out how many of these book titles get on my holds list, and am often startled by what I find.  Happily, most of my apparent choices turn out to be great, with only the occasional What Was I Thinking? moment.

This week’s arrival, I have to say, was one of the most winning-est yet.  On the face of it, it was already on a winning streak – what’s not to love about a book about food, posh food, in a posh restaurant, and featuring a giant lobster on the front cover?

I started reading late on Sunday afternoon.  I was still reading very late Sunday evening.  I got up early to read before work on Monday, carried the book around all day and spent ALL my breaks with the lobster.  Monday evening I was nearing the end, and by ignoring a) my family, b) the dishes, and c) all phone calls and text messages was able to turn the final pages around 11.15pm.

The premise (as all the reviewers point out) is simple.  Two brothers and their wives meet in a restaurant, to discuss a family problem.  This seems to be about the only point on which the reviewers agree, though.  This, and the fact that the cover quotes are astonishingly misleading: I certainly wouldn’t describe it as a heartstopping thriller, nor (as on another cover version) would I use the tagline: How far would you go to protect the ones you love?  Proper reviewers on important websites compare it to books like The Slap, and We Have to Talk About Kevin, but are divided on whether this is a GOOD or a BAD comparision.

I’m not going to talk about what transpires over the course of the dinner, as that would involve spoilers of the worst kind, and would also, I think, ruin the best thing about this book – not the storyline itself, although that is part of it; but instead, the creeping sense that as much as you guess about where the book is going, the actual truth of what is happening to these families is revealed to be worse with each turning of the page.  Character judgments are futile – who’s the hero, and who’s the villain; as are attempts to figure out a nice tidy plot resolution. Instead, and very much unlike my usual approach, I just had to let go and let the story take me with it.

What I will say is that, very unexpectedly, The Dinner turned out to be one of my Best Reads of 2012.  I don’t think it’s going to challenge my current lead, but it has certainly already led to some passionate and enthusiastic tea-break discussions.

Who else out there has read it? Loved or loathed it?  Do tell …

Armchair Travel: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our October Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover: SightlinesCover: Sicily, It's Not Quite TuscanyCover: Destination MarsCover: Island of the LostCover: Greece On My WheelsCover: The Lost City of Z

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