I have just read The Dinner a Novel, by Herman Koch. I am not sure what genre this book of fiction falls into, but I would class it as psychological horror.
The story takes place in Amsterdam. Two brothers and their respective wives meet for dinner in an expensive, top-rated restaurant. The purpose of the dinner, we eventually learn, is discuss the problems posed by their three teenage children. The boys have done an evil deed – very evil, as it turns out. If they are found out, it will be a serious police matter.
Do the parents cover up for this act, or do they turn the kids in and face the music? How far should a parent go to protect their off-spring.
I can only hope that most parents wouldn’t go as far as this pair.
I enjoyed this book, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
This is a book in which we start out liking the protagonists and gradually change our opinion as the plot wears on. If you have read Gone Girls, you will know what I mean. In my case, the parent I least respected in the beginning was the one I admired the most in the end. Admired is perhaps too strong a word. It might be more accurate to say, “the parent I disliked the least.”
In the end, at least for me, I was afraid for the future of these families and afraid for the future victims of the young boys involved.
If you are looking for a happy ending, or at least an ending where something is resolved, you will be disappointed. In the end, the good do not prosper and the bad do not get their just rewards. Instead, we are left with a highly unsettled feeling that the worst is yet to come.
Nevertheless, I liked it and would recommend it to those who enjoy reading about the darker side of the human spirit.
The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay is a work of historical fiction set in New York in the 1870s.
Protagonist Moth is a 12 year old girl, daughter of a gypsy fortune teller. Moth’s life is hard, impoverished and dangerous. When her mother arranges for her to work as a personal maid for the wealthy Mrs. Wentworth, Moth believes that her life is improving for the better. Her relief is short-lived, however, as Mrs. Wentworth proves herself to be cruel and possibly mad.
Moth escapes, only to find that her mother has vacated the tenement where she once lived and left no forwarding address. Through a series of events, Moth ends up being “rescued” by Mae, a prostitute in training. She goes to live in a high class brothel where she undergoes training for the life of a whore. When Moth is assessed as being ready, her virginity will be sold to the highest bidder. Men pay high prices for the right to deflower a young virgin, especially a beautiful girl like Moth, who has been trained in the desirable social skills.
In time, Moth is befriended by a woman physician, “Doctress Sadie”, who tends to the physical needs of the women and girls in the brothel. Dr. Sadie teaches Moth to beware of participating in “the virgin cure.” Men with syphilis and other incurable diseases believed that their diseases could be cured by having sex with a virgin.
One fascinating aspect of this book lies in the fact that the Dr. Sadie character is based on the life of real “Dr. Sadie”, an ancestor of Ami McKay. The actual Dr. Sadie was one of the first women to become a physician. She devoted her life to working in the Bowery, lending assistance to impoverished women and children.
The book paints a devastating picture of what life was like for women, especially poor women, in that period of New York’s history.
If you liked The Birth House, you will like The Virgin Cure. It’s a well-developed story with characters that you care about. If there is a negative to this book, it is that the end is somewhat difficult to believe.