Cover Image: The Ditch

The Ditch

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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley, Crown Publishing and Herman Koch for free e-ARC in return of my honest review. 

I enjoy Herman Koch book a lot and was very excited to be approved. The writing is impeccable as usual. It always fascinates me how Koch manages to set a web of people, thoughts, stories, bit and pieces from the past mingled with the present. It seems like Koch’s writing is very simple, at the same time he manages to discuss important issues -  family betrayal, adultery, possible murder. I was amazed how Koch manages to create a certain atmosphere and gives few hints to the reader which the protagonist doesn’t have a clue.

The Ditch impressed me. However, I find it overwhelming on how many topics Koch was concentrated. He did not provide clear conclusions at the end which left me a bit confused. I appreciate that he wanted to give the reader a chance to decide if there was affair and/or murder. It feel unfinished with a few loose ends.
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I was very excited for this book because of have been a fan of Koch's other novels, however this one fell short for me. I found it boring and long. I was confused as to why the author withheld real names and kept mentioning it. I found that pretty annoying. However, maybe I read the book wrong. I'm not sure, but overall I did not enjoy it.
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Thank you netgalley and the publisher.
I’m so sorry but I did not enjoy this story, it was all over the map.
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I had great expectations for this book as I love Herman Koch's writing, but this story was a bit of a mess. I felt like the writing was all over the place and very confusing. Perhaps it was just me or maybe it was bad translation, but this could be better.
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Honestly, I really enjoy Herman Koch's novels.  He has a very cynical view of humanity, but his observations on it are brilliant.  Incidentally, The Ditch is only the second novel of his that I have ready.  And I am as torn on how to rate it as I was my first of his, The Dinner.  When you are reading his novels, they are uncomfortable, and unhappy.  Unfortunately, they also seem very real, which is also sometimes off-putting, as it makes the reader consider the author's narratives in light of their own lives....or at least that is what happens with me.  

When I first read The Dinner, I only rated it 2 stars because I felt such a dark view of civilization afterward.  Then months later, I came back and bumped it up to 4 stars because I couldn't stop talking about it and asking everyone around me to read it.  Isn't that the sign of a good book?

While much of what I thought about The Dinner also could apply to The Ditch, I don't think there is anything so profound in it that I will be telling people I know that they must read it.  It was a pretty straight up story about how a powerful man sees his wife talking to one of his peers and a seed of infidelity is planted in his mind and he becomes obsessed with the idea that she is cheating on him.  It is brilliant how Koch writes so convincingly how normal behavior can be twisted back and forth to mold to the observer's beliefs.  

Koch doesn't wrap everything up in a bow, but he concludes in a believable and satisfactory way.  He is definitely a must-read author for me and I can't wait to read Summer House With Swimming Pool next.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for allowing me to read The Ditch, by Herman Koch. Jealousy and suspicion are the center of this book. Mayor of Amsterdam, 60 year old Robert Walter, sees his wife laughing and paying attention to an alderman at a party and immediately decides she is having an affair, a thought he can’t get out of his mind. He becomes obsessed with this idea and just about ruins his family trying to analyze this situation. We get a glimpse into his past, but he is a pretty private person, even making up false names for his wife and daughter. This book, although a little confusing in parts, still has the witticism and though-provoking ideas of Herman Koch.
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I loved The Dinner and enjoyed Summer House with Swimming Pool, but had a hard time sticking with The Ditch. The narrator's lack of self-awareness doesn't quite work on a comedic level but isn't hard-hitting enough to carry a novel. I'll look forward to the next novel by Koch, but just couldn't sink my teeth into this one.
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Herman Koch's latest novel, The Ditch, is, in my opinion, one of the year's biggest disappointments. Mr. Koch is capable of such great writing with compelling characters and fantastic stories. The Ditch is not any of those things. The writing is choppy; the story is nonexistent. As for the characters, they don't drum enough interest for you to find them anything but flat and insipid. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and I might have to think twice about reading any of his future novels. I never thought I would say that about Mr. Koch.
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When Robert Walter, popular mayor of Amsterdam, sees his wife toss her head back with laughter while chatting to one of his aldermen at a New Year's reception, he immediately suspects the worst. Despite their long and happy marriage, Robert is convinced that Sylvia is cheating on him—with the respectable alderman who is dedicated to the environment, no less. The man who wants to spoil the capital's skyline with wind turbines.
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Herman Koch is an author that I feel is a bit out of left field for the literary world. His book is a translation from the Dutch and I think it was well done. The book itself was too much bla bla, too much going off on tangents. Not my kind of book
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Herman Koch’s novel The Ditch is narrated by Robert Walter,  the middle-aged Mayor of Amsterdam. Robert is seemingly happily married and yet fault lines appear, subtly, but quickly in the novel. Robert introduces us very quickly to his wife saying “Let me call her Sylvia. That’s not her real name.” We know she’s not from Holland, and Robert adds “where she is from is something I’d rather leave up in the air for the time being,”  so we know we are not getting the full story. Robert tells his story his way, parceling out the information he wants to divulge, telling us his daughter’s name is Diana and then almost immediately retracting it, revealing that “Diana isn’t our daughter’s real name either.”

The ditch

While Robert controls this unreliable narrative, he feeds us clues; his wife is from a country “about which a lot of preconceived notions exist. Notions both favorable and unfavorable. From “passionate” and “temperamental,” it’s only a small step to “hot-tempered.” A crime passionel.” It’s the sort of narrative that encourages the reader to fill in the blanks and to start guessing.

Although married to the mayor, Sylvia doesn’t like “public appearances” but she accompanies her husband to certain events especially when Robert wears his “most pitiful expression” and gives her a “hammy, imploring look.” Telling Robert not to “start crying” Sylvia agrees to attend the new year’s reception, and this is where all the the trouble starts. At the reception, Robert notices his wife, off in a corner with Alderman Maarten van Hoogstraten laughing and talking. The Alderman has his hand on Sylvia’s elbow and is whispering something in her ear. When Robert joins them, the conversation ends, but Robert suspects that his wife is having an affair. These suspicions become an obsession.

An unreliable narrator, a suspected extramarital affair … these are plot ingredients guaranteed to capture my attention. Given that I’ve read and enjoyed (to varying degrees)   The Dinner, Dear Mr. M, Summer House with Swimming Pool I expected to enjoy The Ditch. Robert is an interesting character: a glib, facile politician whose superficial slick social manner hides a somewhat spineless, neurotic individual. Unfortunately Robert’s discursive (rambling) narrative overwhelms the fault lines revealed in Dutch society. Intriguing issues emerge but are drowned out by Robert’s self-obsession and paranoia; he’s a slippery narrator and ultimately his paranoia and frequent digressions leave little to hold onto.

review copy

Translated by Sam Garrett
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Robert Walter, the mayor of Amsterdam, is at a New Year's Eve party where he sees his wife Sylvia conversing with an alderman. She is laughing and smiling at something he whispers in her ear.
Robert becomes suspicious and begins to assume the worst. He obsesses over whether the two might be having an affair.
While he is consumed by the prospect, his aging parents make the decision to end their lives in the near future. He wonders if he should try and talk them out of it.
Most of the story takes place in Robert's mind, as he searches for clues of infidelity or unhappiness in his marriage, yet struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy. It isn't clear if he is imagining things, or if they are really true, as he analyzes Sylvia's behavior.
He goes off on tangents about trash pick up policies and has strong feelings against windmills.
I started out enjoying the story, but it never really went anywhere and I didn't understand some of it, including the ending.
As much as I admire the author's writing, this one didn't do much for me. If you've never read Herman Koch, I would recommend reading The Dinner before this one.
Thank you to Crown/Archetype and NetGalley for the free ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved the Dinner by Herman Koch, but this one just wasn’t for me. It’s about Robert Walter, the mayor of Amsterdam, who suspects his wife of cheating on him with a colleague. Instead of confronting her to set the story straight, he becomes completely wrapped up with paranoia inside his own head. The story tends to ramble in spots as he overanalyzes the situation repeatedly. This was advertised as suspense but I felt that it was more of a character study of a descent into madness. The plot wasn’t terrible, but I did not find it that compelling like I did with the Dinner. Hopefully Koch’s next one will better hit the mark.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Hogarth Press and Herman Koch for my complimentary e-copy ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Not since PERFUME, by Patrick Süskind, have I been so thoroughly unimpressed with a book until the last few chapters. I wasn’t necessarily bored, but I wasn’t fully engaged, either. Maybe this is because I read the first two hundred pages as an ebook and I don’t like reading that format (it was the only way I could get the book early) but I kinda think it was the book itself. One of the reasons I’ve come to that conclusion is due to the fact that much of the novel meanders, and there’s no clear plot thread. It seems to be a slice of life book, tonally similar to a Frederick Backman novel, if you can imagine that, and I’ve always expected more from Koch. I should’ve known better, is all I can say on the matter. Koch of course nails the landing, making everything that comes before well worth the time spent reading it.

In summation: I’d say more, but everything I want to talk about is a spoiler, and this book is all the better if you have no idea what’s going on. I will say this much, your confusion (and even maybe your boredom) is intentional. 

Note: I'll be including a spoiler discussion at the end of my video review for all of those interested in what I have left out of this version.

Final Judgment: Don’t ditch this one.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.
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Catastrophic thinking is defined as “ruminating about irrational worst-case outcomes.” 

Pasquale’s travel anxiety: unrelenting New York traffic to the airport, TSA strip search, delayed flight, middle seat surrounding by not one, but two crying babies, no on board TV, lost baggage. Pretty catastrophic, right?

This cognitive rational can be akin to Murphy’s law – what can go wrong, will go wrong.  It’s panic-inducing and exhausting. 

The Ditch follows the mayor of Amsterdam who begins to unravel at a seemingly casual interaction between his wife and colleague. From the second chapter, I immediately felt connected to our narrator.  The prose allowed me to feel the angst and paranoia of another catastrophic thinker with a truly vivid imagination.

The encounter forces him to analyze his wife and her behavior, both past and present, in a completely new light as he tries to snuff out the potential affair. Koch’s writing was perfect to put the reader in the mayor’s mind.

Unfortunately, there were many subplots and tangents that never really hit home for me.  I felt the author was trying to hard to be cerebral, and it came off as forced and a tad pretentious.

I debated quitting on the book, but ultimately needed to know whether the mayor’s seemingly far-fetched theory was true.  Was his wife cheating on him? 

I know Koch is a very popular author but The Dinner and The Ditch both fell short for me.  Is there a beloved author you just can’t seem to connect with?
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So incredibly compelling!  All the story lines are fascinating and unfold at the perfect pace to entice you to continue reading!  

The main character is the mayor of Amsterdam. At a party he notices his wife touching a colleagues arm in a way that makes him feel they are having an affair.  Are they or is it an overly active imagination?  The answer and more is the rest of the book. 

I highly recommend this book!  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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This book makes me think I should start a shelf titled "Heartbroken." Why? Because that is how I felt reading this book. Robert Walter, the main character, seems to think his wife is having an affair. He also thinks he is way more than he really is. Throughout the book he makes up names to protect those around him. This device doesn't do anything to either help the story line along or make it more interesting. It only serves to annoy the reader and make me feel Mr. Walter is conceited and pedantic. Add to this his constant rambling! Five pages of the book were taken up in his thoughts between the moment he walks up to the microphone at a funeral and when he actually starts to talk. And his thoughts add no value to the story other than to stretch out the story. In the end, I felt no resolution to the story line. I really feel like I missed something.
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Thank you Crown Publishing and Netgalley for a copy of The Ditch by Herman Koch in exchange for an honest review. The Ditch is available now.

The Ditch follows in the same writing style as The Dinner. Anyone who enjoyed that novel will probably want to give this one a try too. The Ditch is told in the same sort of manner, dancing around a few bigger issues, told from one point of view, and more of a stream of thoughts style than objectively. The style definitely varies from my usual preferred reading style but something about his characters grab me and drag me in.

Very unique read, won't be for  everyone but I think you'll know if you like it soon after starting.
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I really enjoyed the darker nature of the last (3) books by Herman Koch: The Dinner, Summer House with Swimming Pool and Dear Mr. M, so I couldn't wait to try this new novel.  Unfortunately, it was a bit of a slog for me.

Robert Walter is the 60 year old mayor of Amsterdam. Married to Sylvia, the couple has one daughter, Diana.  The story begins with a party on New Years where Robert notices his wife smiling and laughing with an alderman.  He notices him whisper something in her ear and from that point on he is convinced the two are having an affair.

The more he he obsesses about it, the more jealous he becomes and his anxiety and paranoia intensifies.  Even a vacation to Paris with his wife doesn't convince him that he's imagining the whole affair.  He decides to spend more time at home observing his wife and daughter and listening for clues. Robert is very secretive when it comes to specifics about Sylvia and Diana. Along with the whole affair suspicions, there's a minor story but a serious subject with the mayor's parents contemplating suicide. In addition, there is talk about Dutch politics and the environment including minute details about their recycling program.

I really wanted to like this novel. There is a good amount of subtle humor which I enjoyed and, it has an ending I wasn't anticipating as well but, overall the story just failed to engage me.
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Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

This author's previous three novels were all 4-star reads for me.  But this one had my eyes glazing over, a tepid and tedious read.  What on earth was the purpose of withholding the real names of the characters, and why keep mentioning it?  Annoying.  Mayhap this was simply too nuanced for me, that's entirely possible.  I've been known to read a book wrong once or twice.  This put me in the mind of tilting at windmills, an exercise I did not enjoy.
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