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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 scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. 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.
Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.
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This is a totally riveting, and increasingly gut-wrenching, story, told from the viewpoint of a man who's meeting with his wife, brother, and sister-in-law over dinner to discuss a... problem... regarding their respective teenage sons. Turns out the boys are involved in a crime, but the degree of that involvement - and the depths to which each parent wants to go to help and/or protect their children - unfolds gradually, leading to decisions that horrified me even as I could see how people might make such appalling choices.
Our narrator has a rather off-putting style from the beginning, opening the story with details about his distaste for dining at places that require months-in-advance reservations - turns out his brother's rich and famous, and there's a lot of sibling-rivalry tension there. Details as to the narrator's relationship with his brother, with his own wife, and with his son creep in among tidbits about his feelings on food, jobs, society, and other things - along with some throwaway remarks as to incidents in his own past that color the decisions made down the line.
I don't want to give too much away here, but I did find the setup of the boys' behavior, including the Youtube-video aspect, all too believable. The narrative itself included lots of amusingly snarky observations (the narrator waxes lyrical on some of the more ridiculous extremes of exclusive-restaurant behavior), but that only lulled me into acquiescence before hitting me with the narrator's more warped world-view. I found my sympathies changing with each new chapter, cycling back around again as I wondered how much of the truth had been revealed just yet. Riveting story, reminding me in some ways of Patricia Highsmith at her best, but with the author's own style. Recommended!
[There's a TV Tropes page for the book with some interesting tidbits. I haven't seen the 2013 film adaptation; might try and catch it some time.]