Dinner with the Schnabels by Toni Jordan, Review: Hilarious

Dinner with the Schnabels features Toni Jordan’s wonderful recipe of intelligent comedic farce, cutting social commentary and heart. Read my full review.

Dinner with the Schnabels Synopsis

You can marry into them, but can you ever really be one of them?

A novel about marriage, love and family.

Things haven’t gone well for Simon Larsen lately. He adores his wife, Tansy, and his children, but since his business failed and he lost the family home, he can’t seem to get off the couch.

His larger-than-life in-laws, the Schnabels – Tansy’s mother, sister and brother – won’t get off his case. To keep everyone happy, Simon needs to do one little job: he has a week to landscape a friend’s backyard for an important Schnabel family event.

But as the week progresses, Simon is derailed by the arrival of an unexpected house guest. Then he discovers Tansy is harbouring a secret. As his world spins out of control, who can Simon really count on when the chips are down?

Life with the Schnabels is messy, chaotic and joyful, and Dinner with the Schnabels is as heartwarming as it is outrageously funny.

(Hachette Australia, April 2022)

Genre: Drama, Humour

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Book Review

After thoroughly enjoying Toni Jordan’s Addition (2008) and Fall Girl (2011), in 2016 I declared the then-new Our Tiny, Useless Hearts ‘her best novel yet’. And now, with the release of Dinner with the Schnabels she’s topped that. 

Firstly, this novel is what I’d classify a ‘literary dramedy’. Literary, because of the intelligence that radiates from its prose. And dramedy, because although Dinner with the Schnabels does have a rom-com feel, it is really a story about contemporary life. 

In this genre, 30 to 40-year-old male characters are often secondary or tertiary characters afforded little depth of characterization. So Simon’s nuanced and achingly honest male first-person narrative perspective was refreshing to read. 

To say I found his literal (and at times naïve) take on things along with his anxiety-fueled inner-dialogue with interacting with his children and strong female secondary characters entertaining would be an understatement… Jordan’s razor-sharp dry humour and talent for comedic farce are once again on glorious display. Several conversations Simon has with his mother-in-law left me laughing out loud, and yes, there are rapid-fire dinner and cafe table discussions that I absolutely must see adapted for TV!  I am talking ‘The Rosie Effect restaurant scene’ excruciatingly hilarious…

But for me, what makes Dinner with the Schnabels a cut above the rest is its up-to-the-minute social commentary and its deceptive depth of heart. The latter really creeps up on you while you are busy laughing, and the denouement really packs a tear-in-the-eye punch.

In Toni Jordan’s Dinner with the Schnabels half-empty cups brim over with the very best of Aussie humour and heart. Highly recommended reading.

PS: This title would make the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5 ; Overall 4.75

Get your copy of Dinner with the Schnabels from:

Booktopia AU Amazon

OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

Reading Update: I have since had the pleasure of reading the follow-up to this novel, Prettier If She Smiled More. More warm-hearted Schnabel family fun.

More Dinner with the Schnabels reviews

‘Just delightful . . . a modern comedy of manners that pokes affectionate fun at contemporary Australia – all with Toni’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and tenderness. I am pressing it into the hands of everyone I know.’ – Kate Forsyth, author of Beauty in Thorns

Dinner with the Schnabels is a contemporary comic masterpiece. Practically every page boasts lines redolent of humour, wit and sarcasm that will make you snigger if not laugh out loud.’ – ArtsHub

‘What an absolute delight this novel was to read. For a start, laugh out loud funny, which is honestly all too rare, so many authors try too hard with comedy, and it can often seem overblown. Here though, the wit and humour was just so intelligent, cutting, and on point.’ – Theresa Smith Writes 

Related Reading: Top Intelligent Romantic Comedy Novels, recommended reading list

About the Author, Toni Jordan

Toni Jordan has worked as a molecular biologist, quality control chemist, TAB operator and door-to-door aluminium siding salesperson. She is the author of six novels including the international bestseller Addition, which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, Nine Days, which was awarded Best Fiction at the 2012 Indie Awards and was named in Kirkus Review’s top 10 Historical Novels of 2013, and Our Tiny, Useless Hearts, which was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. Toni has been published widely in newspapers and magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physiology and a PhD in Creative Arts. Toni lives in Melbourne. Check out her website and connect with her on Facebook.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2022.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.