Category Archives: psychological suspense

Book Review : The Dinner

Title : The Dinner The Dinner

Author : Herman Koch

Publisher : Hogarth

Publication Date : February 12th, 2013 (originally published in Dutch in 2009)

Pages : 304

Stand Alone or Series : Stand Alone

Why I Read This book : It was all over the blogosphere and people were calling it the “European Gone Girl” and we all know how much I loved Gone Girl.

Three Words : disturbing, character study, violent

Red Flags : language, violence (this is an adult novel)

Summary (from Goodreads):  An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives — all over the course of one meal.

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Take : So on the surface this book is literally about a dinner. And at first I was bewildered as to how this was going to be like Gone Girl. I mean I like food as much as the next person but I don’t need a 300 page accounting on how you arrived at the restaurant, what you ordered, what everybody was drinking, etc…But much like that book, seemingly trivial details and commonplace occurrences begin to take on sinister overtones. The narrator is completely unreliable and almost unwittingly reveals that he is unreliable through his recounting of past experiences. As you go further and further you realize just how disturbed all of these individuals are! I REALLY enjoyed this book and at the same time disliked it intensely because it made me feel uncomfortable. As a parent I was disturbed immensely by these people and thought about this book for days after finishing it. And honestly, I love that feeling. I love thinking about something I’ve watched or read for days afterwards. There were definitely parts that dragged….especially in the beginning when they were setting up the dinner and ordering the dinner and all of that but in the end I was really excited about this book.

Rating : 9 shoes

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Book Review : Kept in the Dark

Yeah! It is almost Halloween! I love Halloween mostly because my girls are so excited they can hardly contain themselves. We will be escorting Princess Ariel and a princess vampire around for candy treats this year ( don’t worry I will post pictures…). I haven’t decided if I want to dress up or not. This year I have mostly decided to channel my Halloween urges into decorating the house in a spooky yet elegant manner. I did some fun things in the dining room that I will post on Wednesday.

On to the book review….I had read this book over my long hiatus and somewhat forgotten it. But as I’ve been reading other blogs with lists of creepy or horror novels to read, my mind had a flash and I remembered this book. Kept in the Dark reminded me of Before I Go To Sleep and The Collector – you know psychological suspense type thriller novels. Since I didn’t really have a “horror” book to review for this Halloween week, I thought I would share my thoughts on this one.

Title : Kept in the Dark (also published as Tideline in England)

Author : Penny Hancock

Three Words : psychological, suspenseful, disturbing

Red Flags : Drug use, sexual situations, violence… not appropriate for children

The book begins with Sonia opening the door and inviting in fifteen-year old Jez, who is there to borrow a record from her husband. As she talks to the boy, Sonia becomes convinced that she doesn’t want him to leave and just decides to keep him there. Sounds crazy but that is literally what happens in the first chapter. Jez is the nephew of a family friend – an alcoholic woman with problems of her own. She isn’t convinces that he is missing but reluctantly begins to search for him. She never suspects that Sonia has taken Jez. After all, Sonia is wealthy and attractive, a successful voice coach who has been seeminlyg happily married for more than twenty years. As the search for Jez intensifies, Sonia must devise ways to keep Jez in her control and hidden from the world, while dealing with the memories of the terrible truth of her childhood. Why is she keeping this boy? How far will she go? Will Jez ever go home to his family? What is Sonia’s secret past?

I enjoyed this book although occassionally it felt a little slow. It succeeded in conveying the “banality of evil” (as Hannah Arendt called it). Sonia isn’t all crazy Hannibal Lecter-y style. In her mind, all of her actions are completely reasonable – she needs to keep Jez and that is all there is to it. In every instance, she simply decides to go through with ever more horrific actions. Also, the terrible secret of her past is pretty crazy – I did not see that coming at all. Jez’s aunt is not the most sympathetic character in the world, she is an alcoholic who feels like everyone is over-reacting when they are concerned by Jez’s disappearance. She is so self-absorbed with her own issues and problems, it is difficult to connect with her or sympathize with her on any level.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the pace of the writing. It was a pretty slow buildup to the final events. Sometimes, I just wanted to scream “Alright! Get on with it!” In the end , I was glad I stuck with the book and found out the secret because that really made me feel all creepy and disturbed inside. One of those books, I just think about for a couple of days which is one of my favorite feellings. I would give this book eight shoes – my black knee high boots which I love, but they have a boxy toe on them so sometimes I feel like they look a little old-fashioned but I digress.

What creepy books do you recommend for Halloween? Has anyone read this one?

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