Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch


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, 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. 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.

My take: 3 looks

Beautifully written, with finely crafted sentences that almost made me want to highlight the hardcover, first American edition. Not quite as mesmerizing as I found "The Dinner", "Dear Mr. M" is told in several sweeping sections, each giving voice to a different character. The fibers of the tapestry weave together pretty quickly, but we are left with the question of who did what to whom until the very last few pages.

A number of twists and turns, red herrings, and overly long sections made parts feel as if Koch was rambling, especially Laura's section, but this is no reason to overlook the book as a whole. I was overall satisfied with the ending, albeit after a bit of suspending belief. That's why I gave this one 3 looks instead of 4. However, it is recommended.

Many thanks to BloggingForBooks for a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.

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