Title: The Dinner List
Author: Rebecca Serle
Genre: Magical Realism/Romance
Length: 276 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: a good cry, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
Content Warnings: breakup
When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.
At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.
As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.
Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a modern romance for our times. Bon appetit.
This is the most honest review I have ever written and will probably ever write. This is one of those books that people either love or hate (see: my book club’s discussion), and I absolutely fell in love with this bittersweet story of love, loss, and letting go.
The Dinner List takes the familiar question If you could have dinner with five people dead or alive, who would you choose? and makes it literal. When Sabrina meets goes to meet her best friend for her 30th birthday dinner, she finds Audrey Hepburn and a handful of important people from her life also seated at the table. Chapters alternate between this surreal dinner and flashback that navigate us through Sabrina’s relationship with her ex Tobias, who is also at the dinner.
This book speaks to my soul. Six months before I read this book, I went through a breakup, and I thought it was the end of the world. I had been convinced that he was the one, that we were meant to be together, and I spent so much time looking back at our relationship wondering where it went wrong and what I could’ve done differently. Healing is a long, dark, and difficult process, and this book came to me at the perfect time in my healing journey–if I had tried to read it a few months prior, I don’t think I could’ve made it through this book because it would’ve hurt too much.
Was my relationship exactly like Sabrina’s? Of course not. Did I even like her as a character? Not really, but that’s not the point. I have felt what she felt, I have thought what she thought, and I have been where she’s been emotionally. This book helped me process the trauma of my breakup and ultimately brought me a bit of peace.
This book means so much to me, and I will forever consider it a favorite. Don’t let the magical realism and romance descriptors fool you: this book is real and raw and bittersweet. It will rip out your heart and empty your tear ducts, but somehow leave you with hope.