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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Dinner Club

by
Saskia Noort


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Dinner Club



Title: The Dinner Club
Author: Saskia Noort
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 253 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: The Dinner Club - US
The Dinner Club - UK
The Dinner Club - Canada
  • Dutch title: De eetclub
  • Translated by Paul Vincent

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent aspects, but doesn't do enough with the material (and doesn't do it well enough)

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 5/1/2007 Emma Hagestadt
Sunday Telegraph . 21/1/2007 Susanna Yager
The Times . 6/1/2007 Marcel Berlins


  From the Reviews:
  • "In a novel that embodies the best in Euro-crime, Dutch thriller writer Saskia Noort turns a conventional mid-life crisis into something more sinister. (...) Paul Vincent's unobtrusive translation is spot on." - Emma Hagestadt, The Independent

  • "It's sharp, sexy and a riveting read." - Susanna Yager, Sunday Telegraph

  • "A tangled web of deceit, adultery and financial shenanigans emerges. The book is ambitiously described as "Desperate Housewives scripted by Patricia Highsmith". The first part is vaguely accurate." - Marcel Berlins, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Dinner Club has a decent premise: several Dutch couples who have escaped Amsterdam for village-life become close friends, and wind up finding yet another crack in the supposed suburban idyll. They're all yuppies, approaching middle age, who made a similar choice: most have small children, and the city environment didn't seem the right one for raising a family. But they miss the urban lifestyle, the substitute of continuing consumer excess only a partially satisfactory one out in the boondocks where they (especially the wives) find themselves stuck.
       The novel is narrated by relative new-comer, Karen van de Made, married to Michel and with two daughters. She finally makes friends, and they form a 'dinner club', each glad to find people with similar lifestyles and expectations -- entrepreneurial (at least the men), enjoying the finer things in life (for whom there is little that could be more degrading than having to shop at the ... discount supermarket ("I always took upmarket bags with me to put the shopping in", one of the humiliated women reluctantly admits)). They party it up, and are all each others best friends -- until one of their houses burns down, the man of the house with it.
       As it turns out, appearances were deceiving. The dead man, Evert, had been in psychiatric care -- and had had an affair with one of the other wives. When a second 'dinner club'-member also dies under suspicious circumstances ... well: "it was as if our families were being punished one by one."
       Friendships fray quickly -- especially for Karen, who has her doubts about the deaths being suicides and who some of the others believe has been saying too much. Too many people appear to have things to hide (from the police, and each other). And, as a police investigator with an interest in the case notes: "they're all in the clutches of Mr Simon Vogel". Indeed, Karen eventually learns that in expanding his business her husband has also relied on Simon (and Ivo, another of the group) -- to such an extent that Simon wields considerable power over them. So whose arms does Karen fall into ... yes, of course, Simon's.
       Simon is apparently a ruthless businessman, with a long trail of people he's taken advantage of (even the policewoman pursuing the case has some history with him ...), but even Karen has trouble fighting her impulses .....
       The Dinner Club is a somewhat confused thriller. It relies a great deal on atmosphere -- specifically the incestuous intimacy of the 'dinner club'-group, built on mutual reliance and yet with lots of underlying tension (sexual, financial, etc). Unfortunately, Noort isn't particularly good at atmosphere, relying far too much on scenes of inebriation -- they drink all the time, and huge amounts, and that fog allows for fuzzy action (and reactions): an amateur writer's approach. There's some fun in these people who are more desperate to keep up appearances (and continue with their conspicuous consumption) than see any sort of real justice done but Noort doesn't have the satirists touch to milk this for all its worth either. Finally, her psychological insight isn't very penetrating or persuasive either.
       It's also a very crowded book, with too many couples -- and too many kids (who are almost omnipresent, but are handled like the household pets). There's some decent tension, as everyone (even Karen) is concerned about facts that might be uncovered, but the ultimate payoff also isn't high enough. Neither sharp enough as social commentary, nor exciting enough as a mystery-thriller, The Dinner Club doesn't impress greatly.

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Links:

The Dinner Club: Reviews: Saskia Noort: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Dutch author and journalist Saskia Noort was born in 1967.

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© 2007-2008 the complete review

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