Review: Summer House With Swimming Pool, by Herman Koch

ImageHerman Koch is nothing if not talented in his writing of completely twisted (particularly male) characters. Looking at his author photo in the back of the book, I can’t help but picture him as some of those characters, he looks so menacing…but let me start at the beginning.

Marc Schlosser is a doctor. Nothing special, just a general practitioner with his own medical practice, and a few handfuls of patients who keep coming back. He is well liked, and often invited to prestigious events: premiers of movies and plays and debuts of books. Marc is well liked, but he despises these events. His patients bore him. The human body repulses him. He does as little as possible for his patients, including lying to them and prescribing medicines to keep them at bay. When Ralph Meier, a well known actor, comes into his office and befriends Marc, everything changes. It is not until about 70 pages into the novel that Marc even mentions the fact that he has not only a wife, but two daughters as well, and their lives are impacted by this “friendship” in more ways than one. This general disdain for women sets the tone for the rest of the book, which is filled with sexist, unlikeable men.

When Ralph invites Marc and his family to the summer house he is renting with his wife Judith and their two sons, Marc is hesitant but the Schlossers end up there anyway, much to their eventual regret. The house is full of questionable, potentially menacing people: Ralph, the unapologetic creeper who openly ogles every woman who passes him by, including Marc’s young daughters and pretty wife, Caroline. Stanley, the famous Hollywood director dating a woman more than 20 years his junior. And Marc himself, who is looking to start an affair with Ralph’s wife. Given the high tensions and mix of personalities, it is all the more suspicious when Marc’s daughter Julia has an incident and suddenly can’t remember large pieces of the summer. And then Ralph dies mysteriously the following fall, which is where we find Marc in the beginning of the novel.

An entirely unputdownable book, Summer House With Swimming Pool, will keep you up late reading, or on the edge of your beach chair, as you weave in and out of the lives of these well off, but not necessarily good people. Everyone has something to hide, and every time you think you’ve figured out what really went on, another piece of the puzzle surfaces and you start questioning all over again. Like The Dinner, Herman Koch’s latest book is full of characters so bizarrely different and just nasty that you can’t help but keep reading, trying to make some sense of them.

If you liked The Dinner, or enjoy psychological thrillers, Summer House… is for you. As the title suggests, it’s perfect for summer, not only because of its vacation theme, but because it is such a quick, entertaining read.

Have you read any good thrillers lately? I can’t seem to get enough this summer!

6 comments

    1. It’s hard because I love them both but I think I have to say The Dinner by a little bit, just because the whole thing took place over the course of the meal and the suspense just builds with each course !

  1. You are so right about the author photo of Koch! Every time I look at it I think that the expression on his face really sums up his characters. I’ve seen other photos of him since and he doesn’t seem to look like that all the time. I’m glad you liked it. There seems to be a market for books with characters that are impossible to like. I wonder what that says about those of us that like those books?

    1. I was actually thinking the same thing, what it says about me for loving his books and characters so much! I think it just shows that we like reading about people who are so different from us…that makes me feel better!

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