Author: Herman Koch / Translated by: Sam Garrett
Year: 2016 (2014 original Dutch)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Dear Mr. M by Dutch writer and actor, Herman Koch, had me on a confusing whirlwind of a journey that gave me a slap in the face plot twist ending. No, it wasn’t the cliff hanger kind of ending, but the kind that gave you an answer you wasn’t expecting. The way the book is written itself is something I have never come across. Yes, I have read books with multiple character point of views, but never one that goes back in forth in first, second and third point of view and regards timelines. You are constantly jumping back and forth. Normally, I don’t think that it would work well in a novel, but Koch somehow pulled it off, because each story and each character intertwined with each other.
Now, I tried to explain to a friend recently what the novel was about and the more I tried, the harder it became. When I look at the notes I took while reading, they are maddening. Please bare with me as I will try to be brief and not turn this into a summary.
The book is split in to five sections. The first section was in both 1st and 2nd person pov. It sound more like a letter, a very creepy letter made up of eleven chapters. In this section, we conclude that Mr. M is an…well, he has contemptible behavior and the author, as I like to call him since I didn’t know his name for awhile, follows him. He follows him everywhere he goes, watches his every move, knows what he does in his own home without having to see him (he lives below him by the way), has a weird obsession with his young wife and doesn’t pay too much attention to their daughter, goes through their mail, etc. We also get from this section that Mr. M has written a book that relates to the author, his teenage romance, and his missing history teacher. Which makes sense as to why this man is stalking this writer.
In section two, we get to see everything from the 3rd person pov in Mr. M’s perspective. He is old, unhappy, and accepted that “after a certain age there are no new experiences to be had.” That line is a line repeated many times and Herman, the author (shocker), wants to give him some new material. We learn a lot about the book, Payback, that Mr. M writes and from the third section, we get another point of view and the backstory that leads up to the present. In the third section, we are still in the 3rd person pov, but from Laura’s perspective. It started with an elderly Laura and jumped to a young Laura. This is also where we meet Herman and find out his name. We learn more about her affair with their history teacher, Herman and Laura’s romance, and are left with unanswered questions, because she herself doesn’t have the answer. We see Herman as a questionable and I saw him as being a bit creepy, which doesn’t help me see him in a better light as an adult. At this point, you don’t trust him at all. We think he is a murderer, just like Laura does.
I did have a slight problem with section three, because it seemed to be half Laura’s pov and her friend’s Lodewijk’s pov. There is actually a chapter dedicated to his pov. I felt it was unnecessary for the story, but it did give you a break from everything else going on in the story. In part four, we get a mixture of pov’s. The first chapter is from the teacher’s pov as he is coming up with a plan to show Laura that he has moved on from her, the second chapter is back in Herman’s 1st/2nd pov, and the third chapter is Mr. M’s wife’s pov. During her chapter is also when we find out their daughter’s name, which Herman refused to say. Then each chapter after that jumps between Herman and Mr. M. But it is all about Mr. M. He finally loses his cool and doesn’t seem to care anymore about what anyone thinks. He started to do so earlier in the book, but he lost it by the end and got into a fight with another writer. Imagine two men in their 70s or 80s in an all out brawl with bloody fists and blackened eyes. It’s a hilarious thought.
Now, I won’t give any spoilers as to how it ends, but the last section is in the history teacher’s pov, Herman’s pov, and Mr. M’s pov. Everyone is in 3rd person, except for Herman’s, of course. But this is where we get all of the answers. In the last chapter, the very last chapter in Mr. M’s pov, is where we find out who sent the “Dear Mr. M” letter to him and we find out what happened to the missing teacher. This is where the plot twist happens and you are no longer left with unanswered questions.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. I hope you check out this book and give it a read. If you do, let me know what you think. Did you like it, did you hate it? I personally enjoyed the book and want to read more from Herman Koch. I liked the style he used in the book and it was refreshing, since I have never read anything like it.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the read and until next time!