Life After Life [Book Review]

Book Reviews

photoI literally just finished reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This novel is my first Random House Read for April. I was a little apprehensive to choose this novel because of all the hype surrounding it but I’m happy to report that although it took a bit to get into, Life After Life lived up to the hype!

The novel begins on a snowy February in England 1910, a little girl is born and dies before she takes her first breath. The second chapter begins the same way, the same little girl is born in February 1910  but this time Ursula Todd lives. What an incredible thing to live life over and over again, with the ability to change your destiny (or your past). What would YOU change if you could live your life over and over again until you lived it ‘right’?

Kate Atkinson has such brilliant, smooth, and detailed writing. She created a wonderful main character and an incredibly diverse family. I adored all of the Todds (except maybe Sylvie and Maurice but they’re written to be disliked it seems). I fell for Teddy and envied Ursula’s relationship with her brother. I loved Aunt Izzie’s carefree and straightforward personality and mostly I loved Hugh (Ursula’s father) and the love he always showed his little oddball, Ursula.

It was interesting to go back-and-forth in time — I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and this book definitely satisfied my appetite for it. I was especially engrossed in the chapters regarding World War II and the different ways Ursula experienced it. It was incredible to be apart of all the different lives Ursula lived. The way she used her déjà vu to make changes in her next life was amazing. As each paged turned, my heartbeat quickened. I was constantly anxious to find out what life she would lead next and IF she would survive it.

“It had been a terrifying adventure, a dark night in the forest, but one which, like any good heroine, she had survived.” (Page 166)

Life After Life came out April 2nd and I urge you to pick up a copy if you’re in the mood for a thought-provoking, suspenseful, and interesting read.

Love Always 

Vanessa Xo

——

SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? 

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. 

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.

Life After Life [Book Review]

Book Reviews

photoI literally just finished reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This novel is my first Random House Read for April. I was a little apprehensive to choose this novel because of all the hype surrounding it but I’m happy to report that although it took a bit to get into, Life After Life lived up to the hype!

The novel begins on a snowy February in England 1910, a little girl is born and dies before she takes her first breath. The second chapter begins the same way, the same little girl is born in February 1910  but this time Ursula Todd lives. What an incredible thing to live life over and over again, with the ability to change your destiny (or your past). What would YOU change if you could live your life over and over again until you lived it ‘right’?

Kate Atkinson has such brilliant, smooth, and detailed writing. She created a wonderful main character and an incredibly diverse family. I adored all of the Todds (except maybe Sylvie and Maurice but they’re written to be disliked it seems). I fell for Teddy and envied Ursula’s relationship with her brother. I loved Aunt Izzie’s carefree and straightforward personality and mostly I loved Hugh (Ursula’s father) and the love he always showed his little oddball, Ursula.

It was interesting to go back-and-forth in time — I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and this book definitely satisfied my appetite for it. I was especially engrossed in the chapters regarding World War II and the different ways Ursula experienced it. It was incredible to be apart of all the different lives Ursula lived. The way she used her déjà vu to make changes in her next life was amazing. As each paged turned, my heartbeat quickened. I was constantly anxious to find out what life she would lead next and IF she would survive it.

“It had been a terrifying adventure, a dark night in the forest, but one which, like any good heroine, she had survived.” (Page 166)

Life After Life came out April 2nd and I urge you to pick up a copy if you’re in the mood for a thought-provoking, suspenseful, and interesting read.

Love Always 

Vanessa Xo

——

SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? 

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. 

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.

Debt, Divorce, and Mount Pleasant [Book Review]

Book Reviews

Today, Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor comes out and although I don’t usually start my book reviews this way I will: YOU SHOULD read this novel. That said, let’s get on with the review…

cover

I’ve never picked up a novel that threw me so far into reality that I got anxiety. Money runs the world, according to Harry Salter. Harry Salter is in debt, a mountain of debt that only gets higher, that seems to be gaining momentum, no end in sight. To top things off, his marriage is going through another rough patch — 20 years of marriage and divorce is knocking at the door. The only thing that can save Harry is his father’s estate. An estate that ends up being a measly $4,200 — nowhere near what Harry was expecting. All of his father’s money is gone and Harry is willing to go on a wild goose chase to find it. Money will solve all of his problems, money will save his marriage. Right?

Now, why should you read this novel? Well, for starters it is real. It documents the life of a middle-aged man and all of the anxieties that go along with it. At first it kind of depressed me, I thought THIS is what I have to look forward to? and then I got so into the writing, so into the story, that I forgot all about that. There’s a little fight left in Harry Salter, there are moments in which I hated him and his wife, Gladys, and moments where I loved them both. They are wonderfully complex characters that emulate reality. Their story is daunting but I couldn’t put it down. Their secrets are haunting but I felt relieved when each one was unleashed. The money, the chase, and the suspense surrounding his father’s estate fuelled my need to read on. Oh, and the writing was amazing. Funny, smart, and suspenseful, just the way I like it.

“Life can’t be resolved. If it could, it wouldn’t be life. Relax, Harry, laugh when you can. You don’t get another shot at it.”  (Page 97)

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

——
SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)
In middle age, debt has become the most significant relationship in Harry Salter’s life. He was born to wealthy parents in leafy and privileged Rosedale, at a time when the city was still defined by its WASP elite. But nothing in life has turned out the way Harry was led to expect. He’s unsure of his place in society, his marriage is crumbling, his son is bordering on estranged, and on top of it all his father is dying.
As he sits at his father’s bedside, Harry inevitably daydreams about his inheritance. A couple of his father’s millions would rescue him from his ballooning debt—maybe even save his marriage. But when the will is read, all that’s left for Harry is $4200. Dale Salter’s money is gone. Out of desperation and disbelief, Harry starts to dig into what happened to the money. As he follows a trail strewn with family secrets and unsavory suspicions, he discovers not only that old money has lost its grip and new money taken on an ugly hue, but that his whole existence been cast into shadow by the weight of his expectations.

[Book Review] The Spark

Book Reviews, Family Time

I know for a fact that there are many books to get excited about this April, just from Random House Canada alone. BUT if there is ONE memoir that you should pre-order for April it’s The Spark by Kristine Barnett. You may have read about my “spark” yesterday and I hadn’t planned on writing a review on this book so quickly but I want you ALL to get excited about it.

cover

The Spark is an incredibly touching memoir about a mother learning to nurture her sons’ passions, starting with her first-born Jake. Jake was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, when Kristine was told that he might never learn to tie his shoes or read. Instead of focussing on what her son “couldn’t” or “wouldn’t” do, she paid attention to his passions and found herself nurturing the mind of a genius.

Kristine is a remarkable person and a fantastic writer. I had goosebumps the entire time, I found myself moved to tears quite often, and I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this book. Kristine dedicated a huge chunk of her life to the Little Light program. A program she created for autistic children and their parents, where they could meet and learn. Her goal was to get these children mainstreamed into a public school system. She also decided that in order for her program to work she must pay attention to the passion bubbling up in the heart of each child and allow them to spend time doing it. She truly believes that “By watching and really listening to the children at Little Light, we could get a glimpse of what was inside them–and then all we had to do was get out of their way!” (page 80).

Although I was engrossed by Jake’s journey and his genius, I was more wrapped up in the importance of family and love that is portrayed in this memoir. I don’t want to say much more about this book but I will say that anyone who is in a state of self-doubt at the moment NEEDS to read it.

“…it is about the power of hope and dazzling possibilities that can occur when we keep our minds open and learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child.” (X)


Love Always 

Vanessa Xo

 

The Spark comes out APRIL 9th!

——

SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)

The extraordinary memoir of a mother’s love, commitment and nurturing, which allowed her son, originally diagnosed with severe autism, to flourish into a universally recognized genius—and how any parent can help their child find their spark.

Today, at 13, Jacob is a paid researcher in quantum physics, working on extending Einstein’s theory of relativity. Diagnosed at 1 with severe autism, at 3 he was assigned to life-skills classes and his parents were told to adjust their expectations. The goal: tying his own shoes at 16. Kristine’s belief in the power of hope and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we keep our minds open and learn to fuel a child’s true potential changed everything.

The SPARK

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I’m getting so into The Spark that I might finish it today (full review to come in April). It makes me think about how my parents, family, and friends have nurtured my passions (reading/writing). I remember the excitement I felt when my mom took me to the local library for the first time. We had just moved to Bolton and I was a shy, soft-spoken seven-year-old. I remember getting to sign my name on that flimsy, barely laminated yellow card. My very own library card. A card that represented my love of reading. A card that meant I could take out whatever book I wanted and keep it for a few weeks. My parents took me to the library as often as I needed to. As an added convenience the library was attached to the hockey arena so I would run in there every everytime my brother had a hockey game. I ALWAYS brought a book to my brother’s game (or wherever I went,really). For some odd reason the players needed to arrive a few hours before the game actually started, which meant I got to sit by myself, sip a hot chocolate, let my face numb from the cold, and float off into another world, another book. My parents never forced me to stop reading, as long as I was with them during the game, they let me be.

385904_464264226972580_1147850641_n_large

After I watched Matilda and read the book, my mom embraced my obsession with this girl. A girl who needed the written word to feel at home. A girl that I related to very much. She let me dress like Matilda and cut my hair like her, she even bought all sorts of ribbons to put in my hair. She still brought me to the library and let me watch Matilda on repeat.

photo copy

When I started writing stories and poems of my own, my parents bought me countless notebooks and diaries, never forcing me to share them. When I felt confident enough to share my thoughts, they loved every single word I wrote. My dad and I would even come up with stories together and write ‘screenplays’ — we still brainstorm my future novels together but now it’s over a glass of wine as oppose to a glass of milk.

I don’t know if they saw a spark in me but they certainly allowed me to follow my passion. Sure, they made me do things that I HAD to do, like socialize and make friends, but they always let me carry a book with me. They always let me write or read whenever I was finished doing something I had to do.

“Jake had as much time to do things that were important to him as he had to do the things that were important to other people, to me, or to the school…He did have to get through the day, but he didn’t have to change who he was to do it” (The Spark Page 106).

My parents still encourage me. They ask about the books I’m reading, about the agent who rejected me, about the blog post I wrote, or about the novel I want to start working on. Their support has made a world of difference, it’s helped me believe in myself.

They were the spark.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

When the WAVE takes over [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

My first Random House read for March is Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, a personal memoir about surviving the 2004 tsunami off the coast of Sri Lanka. I’ve had a thing for memoirs lately, I love hearing the stories of other people.

coverWhat would you do if your whole world was destroyed in an instant?  Sonali was in Sri Lanka with her husband, two sons (ages 8 and 6), and her mother and father when the wave hit. She was the only survivor. As you read her description of the wave, of being pushed around through the water, of the intense pain she felt in her chest, you become short of breath. As you follow her story from the realization that her family would never come back, to recounting stories of them from before the wave hit, to the pain she still harbours today, you still can’t catch your breath.

“I must stop remembering. I must keep them in a faraway place. The more I remember, the greater my agony.” (page 51)

That is how Sonali tried to cope in the months following the wave. She tried to forget. Imagine having to remind yourself everyday that your family is gone. Imagine having to walk back into your home without the ones that you love. Imagine having to live two lives — one in your memories, where you are a mother, wife, and daughter. And one where you feel you are no longer any of those, one where memories torment you. Sonali put her whole being onto the page, you can feel her emotions, her pain ebbs into your veins, and her words leave a mark on your soul.

This beautifully written memoir brought to my attention an incredible disaster. Her vivid memory of the incident will live on in my mind. The loss of her family will forever remind me to appreciate mine, to not take them for granted, and to always apologize. I don’t think I could survive without my family.

Sonali is so much braver than I could ever be and I thank her for having the courage to share her story.

Wave comes out today and I urge you to pick up a copy — it is a wonderful read.

Love Always 

Vanessa Xo

——
SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)
A brave, intimate, beautifully crafted memoir by a survivor of the tsunami that struck the Sri Lankan coast in 2004 and took her entire family. On December 26, Boxing Day, Sonali Deraniyagala, her English husband, her parents, her two young sons, and a close friend were ending Christmas vacation at the seaside resort of Yala on the south coast of Sri Lanka when a wave suddenly overtook them. She was only to learn later that this was a tsunami that devastated coastlines through Southeast Asia. When the water began to encroach closer to their hotel, they began to run, but in an instant, water engulfed them, Sonali was separated from her family, and all was lost. Sonali Deraniyagala has written an extraordinarily honest, utterly engrossing account of the surreal tragedy of a devastating event that all at once ended her life as she knew it and her journey since in search of understanding and redemption. It is also a remarkable portrait of a young family’s life and what came before, with all the small moments and larger dreams that suddenly and irrevocably ended.

(i can’t live) With or Without You [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I’ve been on a roll when it comes to exceedingly interesting and yet extremely sad books lately. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta (my second Random House read this month) is perhaps the best written (and depressing) book I have ever read.

cover

The last memoir I read was Grace by Grace Coddington, an inspiring story about the Creative Director of American Vogue. With or Without You is no less inspiring but on many different levels. It’s a memoir about a girl with a drug addicted mother, who attempted suicide at very young age, who spent her entire life surrounded by addicts and alcoholics, who always felt ugly and lonesome and afraid. A girl who loved and hated her mother with such intensity that she couldn’t live with or without her.

The inspiring part and perhaps the most interesting part for myself is how she became a writer, how she pinpointed the exact moment in which the written word would dictate and better her life. While looking at her stepmother and baby half-sister, sleeping one on top of the other she whispers ‘Echo’.

“It wasn’t until much later that I understood what happened that day. Inside me was someone new waiting to be born…a future version of me, a grown-up, someone who would devote her life to describing such moments in time. This was her first word,” (page 53).

I am truly glad for the day she uttered that first word because Domenica’s way of describing things is unlike anything I’ve ever read. There’s a certain vividness in her sentences, a certain timing to her words, that makes you think gosh, her writing is flawless. Like all great writers, Domenica’s memoir made me feel something, sadness and sorrow were two of the biggest emotions I felt while reading this book but also relief. Relief in the fact that I didn’t have to go through what she has. Relief in the fact that I have the mother that I do, a mother that I can’t live without her. Relief in the fact that I’m reading about someone else’s life and not my own. Relief in knowing that I do want to become like my mother and have never declared: I will not become my mother (page 181).

Is that a mean way to think? To be thankful to not have to go through the pains that someone else has? Memoirs like this one have to be written for many different reasons, to help many different people. To help people realize that they should be thankful for what they have, or that they should appreciate their mother, or that with strength and courage you can get through anything, or to teach you that sometimes getting away from all the bad is the only way to survive.

With or Without You does all of that and so much more.

jon-stewart-colbert-bravo

With or Without You comes out February 26th — I definitely recommend it.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

——
SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)
Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving town north of Boston, in a trash-filled house on a dead-end road surrounded by a river and a salt marsh. Her mother, Kathi, a notorious local figure, was a drug addict and sometimes dealer whose life swung between welfare and riches, and whose highbrow taste was at odds with her hardscrabble life. And yet she managed, despite the chaos she created, to instill in her daughter a love of stories. Kathi frequently kept Domenica home from school to watch such classics as the Godfathermovies and everything by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, telling her, “This is more important. I promise. You’ll thank me later.” And despite the fact that there was not a book to be found in her household, Domenica developed a love of reading, which helped her believe that she could transcend this life of undying grudges, self-inflicted misfortune, and the crooked moral code that Kathi and her cohorts lived by.
With or Without You is the story of Domenica Ruta’s unconventional coming of age-a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit ’90s youth and the necessary and painful act of breaking away, and of overcoming her own addictions and demons in the process. In a brilliant stylistic feat, Ruta has written a powerful, inspiring, compulsively readable, and finally redemptive story about loving and leaving.

(i can't live) With or Without You [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I’ve been on a roll when it comes to exceedingly interesting and yet extremely sad books lately. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta (my second Random House read this month) is perhaps the best written (and depressing) book I have ever read.

cover

The last memoir I read was Grace by Grace Coddington, an inspiring story about the Creative Director of American Vogue. With or Without You is no less inspiring but on many different levels. It’s a memoir about a girl with a drug addicted mother, who attempted suicide at very young age, who spent her entire life surrounded by addicts and alcoholics, who always felt ugly and lonesome and afraid. A girl who loved and hated her mother with such intensity that she couldn’t live with or without her.

The inspiring part and perhaps the most interesting part for myself is how she became a writer, how she pinpointed the exact moment in which the written word would dictate and better her life. While looking at her stepmother and baby half-sister, sleeping one on top of the other she whispers ‘Echo’.

“It wasn’t until much later that I understood what happened that day. Inside me was someone new waiting to be born…a future version of me, a grown-up, someone who would devote her life to describing such moments in time. This was her first word,” (page 53).

I am truly glad for the day she uttered that first word because Domenica’s way of describing things is unlike anything I’ve ever read. There’s a certain vividness in her sentences, a certain timing to her words, that makes you think gosh, her writing is flawless. Like all great writers, Domenica’s memoir made me feel something, sadness and sorrow were two of the biggest emotions I felt while reading this book but also relief. Relief in the fact that I didn’t have to go through what she has. Relief in the fact that I have the mother that I do, a mother that I can’t live without her. Relief in the fact that I’m reading about someone else’s life and not my own. Relief in knowing that I do want to become like my mother and have never declared: I will not become my mother (page 181).

Is that a mean way to think? To be thankful to not have to go through the pains that someone else has? Memoirs like this one have to be written for many different reasons, to help many different people. To help people realize that they should be thankful for what they have, or that they should appreciate their mother, or that with strength and courage you can get through anything, or to teach you that sometimes getting away from all the bad is the only way to survive.

With or Without You does all of that and so much more.

jon-stewart-colbert-bravo

With or Without You comes out February 26th — I definitely recommend it.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

——
SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)
Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving town north of Boston, in a trash-filled house on a dead-end road surrounded by a river and a salt marsh. Her mother, Kathi, a notorious local figure, was a drug addict and sometimes dealer whose life swung between welfare and riches, and whose highbrow taste was at odds with her hardscrabble life. And yet she managed, despite the chaos she created, to instill in her daughter a love of stories. Kathi frequently kept Domenica home from school to watch such classics as the Godfathermovies and everything by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, telling her, “This is more important. I promise. You’ll thank me later.” And despite the fact that there was not a book to be found in her household, Domenica developed a love of reading, which helped her believe that she could transcend this life of undying grudges, self-inflicted misfortune, and the crooked moral code that Kathi and her cohorts lived by.
With or Without You is the story of Domenica Ruta’s unconventional coming of age-a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit ’90s youth and the necessary and painful act of breaking away, and of overcoming her own addictions and demons in the process. In a brilliant stylistic feat, Ruta has written a powerful, inspiring, compulsively readable, and finally redemptive story about loving and leaving.

The Most Intense Dinner I've Ever Sat Through [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews

I just finished reading The Dinner by Herman Koch, my first February book review for Random House Canada. This is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write…

cover

I found The Dinner to be an exceptionally difficult read for the first 100 pages or so. Why? Well because I didn’t really like any of the characters…and yet I thoroughly enjoyed the book. How is that possible? To be honest I didn’t think I would ever get through a book with characters I didn’t like but it’s an enriching experience. I found that I paid attention to them more, I wanted to dig deeper into who they are and what they bring to the story. I needed to understand why they were written the way they were. By the end of the novel I had a deeper appreciation for Paul, Claire, Babette, Serge, and Michel. I understood the demented and uncomfortable purpose of each of them, as well as the satirical nature of this novel.

The Dinner reminded me immensely of Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It took me a little longer to sink my teeth into but once the appetizers were over I couldn’t wait to get to the next course — I mean that literally since the book is made up of  five parts (Aperitif, Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert, and Digestif).

I must admit that the writing and the way Herman Koch compares and explains people, emotions, and situations is absolutely brilliant. Like the way Paul describes how different Babette is when he greets her at the dinner,

“Yet there was something else, something different about her this time, like a room where someone has thrown out all the flowers while you were gone: a change in the interior you don’t even notice at first, not until you see the stems sticking out of the garbage.” (Page 31)

See what I mean? You can literally SEE the changes in this woman who you have just been introduced to! Brilliant. As the novel progresses the writing keeps getting better, the characters become more interesting, and the plot gets thicker. The Dinner is probably the most thought-provoking, intense, and shocking novel I’ve read in a while. On the surface The Dinner is just a story about a family trying to find their own happiness but it becomes so much more than that.

“…we would be able to go on living as a happy family. A scar would remain somewhere, true enough, but a scar does not have to get in the way of happiness.” (Page 149-150)

Love Always

Vanessa Xo 

—–
SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)
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.
Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. 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.
** THE DINNER COMES OUT FEBRUARY 12th! **

The Most Intense Dinner I’ve Ever Sat Through [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews

I just finished reading The Dinner by Herman Koch, my first February book review for Random House Canada. This is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write…

cover

I found The Dinner to be an exceptionally difficult read for the first 100 pages or so. Why? Well because I didn’t really like any of the characters…and yet I thoroughly enjoyed the book. How is that possible? To be honest I didn’t think I would ever get through a book with characters I didn’t like but it’s an enriching experience. I found that I paid attention to them more, I wanted to dig deeper into who they are and what they bring to the story. I needed to understand why they were written the way they were. By the end of the novel I had a deeper appreciation for Paul, Claire, Babette, Serge, and Michel. I understood the demented and uncomfortable purpose of each of them, as well as the satirical nature of this novel.

The Dinner reminded me immensely of Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It took me a little longer to sink my teeth into but once the appetizers were over I couldn’t wait to get to the next course — I mean that literally since the book is made up of  five parts (Aperitif, Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert, and Digestif).

I must admit that the writing and the way Herman Koch compares and explains people, emotions, and situations is absolutely brilliant. Like the way Paul describes how different Babette is when he greets her at the dinner,

“Yet there was something else, something different about her this time, like a room where someone has thrown out all the flowers while you were gone: a change in the interior you don’t even notice at first, not until you see the stems sticking out of the garbage.” (Page 31)

See what I mean? You can literally SEE the changes in this woman who you have just been introduced to! Brilliant. As the novel progresses the writing keeps getting better, the characters become more interesting, and the plot gets thicker. The Dinner is probably the most thought-provoking, intense, and shocking novel I’ve read in a while. On the surface The Dinner is just a story about a family trying to find their own happiness but it becomes so much more than that.

“…we would be able to go on living as a happy family. A scar would remain somewhere, true enough, but a scar does not have to get in the way of happiness.” (Page 149-150)

Love Always

Vanessa Xo 

—–
SYNOPSIS (FROM THE RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED WEBSITE)
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.
Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator, The Dinner promises to be the topic of countless dinner party debates. 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.
** THE DINNER COMES OUT FEBRUARY 12th! **