“A change of plans, a subway reroute, a rainstorm in the forecast for a summer picnic.”
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle was not at all what I expected…and I mean that in the best possible way.
I’ve had this novel on my To-Read List for a very long time now, after spotting it in Indigo, being drawn in by the bright yellow cover (apparently this is a colour that really works for books, because I’ve read a ton of yellow books recently!) and the cute caricature of Audrey Hepburn on it. Of course, like most women (and probably men too) out there, I’m an Audrey Hepburn fan, and so I just had to read the synopsis for this book. The premise, that a woman named Sabrina has a birthday dinner with the five people, both living and dead, who have had a profound impact on her life, seemed really intriguing and unique to me, and I instantly put it on my Goodreads list to read in the future. For some reason, I don’t remember what, I didn’t pick up the book that day, and I actually didn’t buy it until 4 days ago.
I am so glad that I did because this book is not at all what you would expect from reading the blurb in the inside cover. I was expecting a run of the mill chick lit. novel about how Sabrina is having trouble getting over he ex-boyfriend and uses this dinner to evaluate her feelings for him and rekindle their romance. Instead, The Dinner List is so much deeper. It is a story that, yes, investigates Sabrina’s relationship with Tobias by alternating between narration of the dinner and an exploration of their 10 years together. However, The Dinner List goes beyond this seemingly cliché plot to delve into notions of loss and regret. Sabrina’s story becomes about much more than her romantic relationship as she is forced to come to terms with her feelings toward a father who abandoned her at a young age, as well as toward her best friend who has moved on to an entirely new life of marriage and motherhood that Sabrina feels both jealous of and unable to come to terms with. Sabrina must evaluate all of her relationships, all of the connections that have made her into the woman she is, to ultimately determine the kind of life and love she wants moving forward. She must wrestle with her devotion to fate and actually poke and prod at relationships she has otherwise taken for granted and been reluctant to think critically about, namely her love story with Tobias.
There is, also, a twist in this story, which I will not mention (it would ruin everything if I did) and which utterly crushed me. When my husband turned from the TV and looked at me curled up on the couch beside him, my head buried in this book and tears streaming down my face, he knew it was going to be a novel I would rave about when I was done. And it’s true, I am a really big fan of books that are full of strong emotions. The Dinner List was not a novel I was expecting to be profound and moving and touching, but it really was, and I cried about 3 more times after this initial incident, thinking about how easy it is to take life and love for granted and how dangerous that can be. I can’t say I felt satisfied by the ending, but that’s mainly because I wanted to know more about how Sabrina would proceed and what she would do next – I craved more from the ending, which is a sure sign that the story was a good and incredibly engrossing one!
What was most exciting to me about The Dinner List, though, is that it introduced me to a new writer in Rebecca Serle that I am very eager to follow. Serle’s writing style really spoke to me, and I loved the way she structured her narrative, weaving past and present effortlessly. I also loved her manner of writing dialogue because it was so easy to read, so fluid, and it honestly felt as though I was sitting at the dinner table with Sabrina and her guests. It can sometimes be hard to read scenes that are mostly conversation between characters, especially if the dialogue feels forced, fake and constructed, but I didn’t feel this way at all about The Dinner List, and I instead felt very much like I was sucked into the evening as if I were a participant myself. Serle also has a knack for writing about emotions in a way that is not over the top or silly, but is perfectly indicative, in my opinion, of how twenty- and thirty-something people feel about love and friendship nowadays. Her take on relationships felt very modern to me, and even her descriptions of Sabrina’s struggles with work and money felt realistic and human. I seriously have the impression that Serle is a great, young voice in contemporary literature, and I am eager to pick up some of her young adult novels and watch out for any adult fiction she writes in the future.
“Here is what I remember him saying: Kindness before honesty.
We are taught that honesty is the most important quality. Tell the truth. Do not lie. Etc. But there are so many instances when honest isn’t kind. When the kinder thing to do is to keep what you have to say to yourself.”
All in all, The Dinner List was a hit with me and I’m going to pass it along to my mom straightaway…which means it is a really good one! I’m so glad that I finally had the chance to pick this one up!
❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart