By Herman Koch
Genre: Psychological Thriller
My Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂
Goodreads Rating: 3.32
Goodreads Summary: Once a celebrated writer, M’s greatest success came with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. The book was called The Reckoning (it was called Payback in my version), and it told the story of Jan Landzaat, a history teacher who went missing one winter after his brief affair with Laura, his stunning pupil. Jan was last seen at the holiday cottage where Laura was staying with her new boyfriend (Herman). Upon publication, M.’s novel was a bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough.
That was years ago, and now M.’s career is almost over as he fades increasingly into obscurity. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him. Why?
From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to The Reckoning, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails.
I was really excited when I heard about this, because it seemed like an awesome premise that hasn’t really been done before. Too often authors get stuck in the genre rut, but this seemed to be evading that. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly meet my expectations.
From the start, it seemed exciting, if a bit confusing and difficult to follow. In the beginning, the author makes good use of cliffhanger quotes such as “That’s what makes this different. I’m not a character. I’m real.” (end chapter) to draw the reader in. Therefore, even though I was a little confused at first, I kept at it, because it seemed like you were supposed to be slightly lost. However, as it continued, nothing really cleared up, and it became repetitive and somewhat slow. Even the foreshadowing attempts seemed weak, as it became obvious that Koch was trying to end every chapter with an “ooh what?!?” moment only to immediately solve it in the next chapter. Plotwise, I thought it was dragged out and much slower than it needed to be, especially considering the fact that there actually was a good idea, it was just poorly done. Koch tried to plot jump and add 3rd person character details about Mr. M, which is unique, it just didn’t seem to be working in this context. Feel free to contradict me, but that’s how I felt.
From what I’ve heard, Koch is famous for making incredibly unlikeable characters. I don’t think this was an exception. I actually DESPISED Mr. M, if only because he was pathetic and wouldn’t just act the way he wanted to, suppressing his feelings and then occasionally “letting it slip”. He has ideas for the world that most would find appalling, but for me that’s not what made me hate him. It’s the fact that he seems afraid to be himself. The fact that “himself” wasn’t great almost seemed to me as though Koch were trying too hard to make him hated. It was semi-unnecessary for the plot.
As far as the other characters, present in the flashback (Laura, Herman, David, etc.) I loved them, and for me they were the redeeming characteristic of this book. They were relatable because they had flaws, but you still rooted for them. I thoroughly enjoyed the parts where they were in it, although I had to ignore some terrible similes such as “which had till then remained sleeping in its basket like a big hairy dog, now stretched itself slowly, walking up to him and licked his hand.” Note that they are talking about a hangover here, not a person. But besides these bits, Koch had great characterization and you felt like you really knew the people, making thee book better.
There were a few times in this book where I was like WTFFF WHYYYY and so I wanted to share them with you. First, it is incredibly sexist through many portions, claiming that women are meant to clean and do housework, giving them lots of time on their hands, and also speaks of them primarily as objects of sexual desire rather than human beings. I’m not 100% sure if this was the character’s opinion, or Koch himself. Either way, it disgusted me.
The ending. It sucked. I think the reason this happened was because it became predictable halfway through, so the author threw in one last twist that for me ruined the entire thing. I’m not sure why he had to do that, but for me it didn’t fit in with what we had learned in the rest of the book. That’s all I can really say without spoilers.
Reasons to Read It…
Despite flaws, this book really wasn’t that bad. If you are interested in a different take on this genre, it may be the book for you. I thought it was a fun unique idea that mixed up the genre, it just wasn’t executed as well as I might have liked.
Despite being dragged out, it did have a solid plotline, and for the most part (until the end) it was well executed and well planned out. I could see it being better to read all in one sitting, or perhaps over a couple of day rather than weeks as I did it, for maximum enjoyment.
Yes, I didn’t like a lot of aspects of this book, specifically the slight boredom factor in the center and the bad ending, but it had a good overall plot, and the characters were well done! I wouldn’t put it on the top of your TBR, but it certainly wouldn’t be horrible to read.
Buy on Amazon: Dear Mr. M: A Novel
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Disclaimers: Amazon is an associate’s link, so I will receive a commission for all sales using that link (so please use it!).
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. Thank you to Edelweiss for providing me with the copy in exchange for an honest review.
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