I received this book from Netgalley for review consideration.
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
Published by Crown Publishing, Random House LLC on June 3rd, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Family Life, Fiction, Literary, Translated Fiction
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When a medical mistake goes horribly wrong and Ralph Meier, a famous actor, winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser is forced to conceal the error from his patients and family. After all, reputation is everything in this business. But the weight of carrying such a secret lies heavily on his mind, and he can't keep hiding from the truth…or the Board of Medical Examiners.
The problem is that the real truth is a bit worse than a simple slipup. Marc played a role in Ralph's death, and he's not exactly upset that the man is gone. Still haunted by his eldest daughter's rape during their stay at Ralph's extravagant Mediterranean summerhouse-one they shared with Ralph and his enticing wife, Judith, film director Stanley Forbes and his far younger girlfriend, Emmanuelle, and Judith's mother-Marc has had it on his mind that the perpetrator of the rape could be either Ralph or Stanley. Stanley's guilt seems obvious, bearing in mind his uncomfortable fixation on the prospect of Marc's daughter's fashion career, but Marc's reasons for wanting Ralph dead become increasingly compelling as events unravel. There is damning evidence against Marc, but he isn't alone in his loathing of the star-studded director.
Summer House With Swimming Pool is one of those books that you just can’t discuss without giving something away. But I’m going to try anyway.
The narrator, Marc Schlosser, is a family physician who has done something wrong. We know this because the book starts with him about to face the Board of Medical Examiners. He is somehow involved in the death of one of his patients, actor Ralph Meier.
After this brief look at the present, Marc takes us back in time to when and how Ralph became his patient, how Ralph died and how he was involved. Ralph was more than a patient, the families became friends, vacationing with each other (plus a movie director and his much younger girlfriend) at the Summer House With Swimming Pool that Ralph rented for the summer.
The events of the summer take up the majority of the book. Each page offering new information to guide the reader to the truth. This I liked!
What I didn’t particular like was Marc Schlosser. If I was being nice I’d say he was quirky, otherwise I would say he was disgusting and quite perverted. As a family physician he obviously has to treat and examine patients. He doesn’t particular like the nitty-gritty stuff – seeing his patients naked, prostate exams etc – in fact he doesn’t particular like much so gets away with the bare minimum, bordering on negligence, while caring for his patients.
When made to feel uncomfortable, Dr. Schlosser’s thoughts are graphic and mostly disgusting in his attempts to distance himself from what he finds unbearable. Summer House With Swimming Pool is not for the light-hearted!
Despite the difficulties experienced with some of the topics, Summer House With Swimming Pool was a brilliantly structured novel. Koch successfully managed to pace this 400 page book so that there wasn’t a slow-down in the middle as there often can be with books of this length.
Swimming Pool With Swimming House is both dark and graphic at times, and I feel that most readers will form a love/hate relationship with the book. Obviously loving the way Koch has crafted this novel, and detesting the vast majority of characters.
Herman Koch is also the author of The Dinner which has moved up my wish list since reading Summer House With Swimming Pool. I’m told that the characters in The Dinner are just as vile, but that the story is more digestible.