Read One, Skip One: The Dinner by Herman Koch & The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

April 30, 2015 Mini Book Reviews 9

The Dinner by Herman KochThe Dinner, Herman Koch
Fiction (Released February 12, 2013)
306 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary:
Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner at an upscale, Amsterdam restaurant to discuss how to handle a situation involving their teenage sons.

My Thoughts:
The Dinner had been on my TBR list for awhile, but I failed to pick it up because Koch’s 2014 novel, Summer House with Swimming Pool, was hit and miss for me. I’m thrilled that the Socratic Salon will be discussing The Dinner on May 20 because it gave me a reason to give it a chance…and, it ended up being one of the best books I’ve read this year! Not much happens in the beginning of the story, but I was so busy reveling in Koch’s brilliant writing and biting social commentary that I didn’t even realize that the characters had merely arrived at the restaurant and ordered food. Koch’s commentary takes aim at politicians, general pretentiousness, wine snobs, and snooty wait staff (the restaurant’s manager reminded me of the maitre d’ in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”). But, rest assured, the action does pick up, resulting in a multi-layered, literary novel that is also suspenseful (one of my favorite combinations!). The “action” portion of the story poses some great “what would you do” questions and ethical discussion topics…making this one a perfect choice for book clubs.

The Bullet by Mary Louise KellyThe Bullet, Mary Louise Kelly
Fiction – Mystery/Thriller (Released March 17, 2015)
369 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary:
Thirty-seven year old Caroline Cashion discovers that there is a bullet stuck in her neck, though she’s never been shot.

Caution: In my opinion, the marketing blurb (found on Amazon, Goodreads, etc) gives away far too much information about this book. If you do want to read The Bullet, I would suggest not reading the “official” marketing blurb. 

My Thoughts:
I was fascinated by the premise of this book and flew through it (it reads very quickly). But, when I looked back at my notes, I realized that most of my reactions to the book were actually negative. Isn’t it bizarre to fly through a book, but not actually like it?! I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen next…and kept being disappointed by what actually did happen next. This was a case of “there must be some big shock on the next page”, but the shock never really came. Most of the major plot points were predictable and, the one that was a big surprise was so incongruous with the character it involved that I had trouble buying it. I love plot twists that are surprising, but they should also make sense when you’re looking back at the story (i.e. Gone Girl is sort of my pinnacle example). This one came off as more of a ploy to shock than as a clever twist. All that being said, I had a great discussion about this book with Tara at Running N Reading and she views some of my gripes differently (check out her review here).

9 Responses to “Read One, Skip One: The Dinner by Herman Koch & The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly”

  1. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    I’m so glad you enjoyed The Dinner; you’ve really got me thinking about re-reading it, since it’s been quite awhile (and you know my book memory!) and it’ll be discussed soon on The Socratic Salon. I wish there were more out there like this one! Of course I thoroughly enjoyed discussed The Bullet with you; thanks so much for sharing my review. I wish we lived closer to each other – ha! 😉 Hope you have a great day!

    • admin

      It was totally unique and, I agree, I wish there were more books like The Dinner out there! Oh my gosh – that would be awesome if we lived close to each other! We could discuss books while running! Any chance you’re going to BEA this year?

  2. Gina

    I loved The Dinner, which I read first and excitedly bought Summerhouse with Swimming Pool only to be, like you, severely underwhelmed! I have big kids as do my friends, so it was interesting discussing “what would you do?” scenarios. The style of the writing felt fresh to me. Did you know that Cate Blanchett is making her directorial debut with the movie version of The Dinner? Should be out summer or fall. I can’t wait!

    • admin

      I didn’t know The Dinner would be a movie! I wonder how it will play out on screen…given so much of what I loved about this book was Paul’s snarky mental commentary…and the fresh writing.

      Love the title of your blog!

  3. Rita @ View From My Home

    I actually loved The Bullet and Anonymous Sources, though if I had to choose one over the other I would choose the latter. I found it a fun and page-turning read. I didn’t expect heavy plot or literary thriller, just an enjoyable few hours and it delivered. Thanks for your opinion– having a difference in ours is what makes book blogging necessary– to cover all angles 🙂

    • admin

      I agree 🙂 Would be BORING if everyone loved the exact same books! I also had been reading a lot of lighter page turners lately, so may have been a bit burned out from that kind of book.

  4. Becca Lostinbooks

    I’ve heard only good things about The Bullet so it’s interesting to see your take on it. Don’t you hate when too much is given away before you even start reading it? I feel like that has happened to me in the last year but I could not tell you what book it was. Hmmm..that will bother me now. lol

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