Book Review: Summer House with Swimming Pool
Author: Herman Koch
Published: 2014 (Originally 2011)
Number of Pages: 387
My Rating: 3
Summary from GoodReads.com:
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.
Well, this book was totally not what I thought it was going to be. I was excited to get this one from Blogging for Books as I had heard good things about the author, Herman Koch, and I was in the mood for a thriller, which is what I was under the impression that this book was. Turns out, it was a book full of characters that I loved to hate from the very beginning.
The story is told from the point of view of a family doctor, Marc Schlosser, and it begins with the death of one of his patients, a famous actor named Ralph Meier. We find out right away that the death is sketchy and the Board of Medical Examiners seems to think that Marc had something to do with it. They think it could possibly have been negligence or malpractice, and it makes you wonder about the possibility, as well. Marc is basically an awful doctor- the things he thinks about his patients are terrible and make me hope my doctor doesn’t feel the same way!- so you are questioning his motives from the get-go and wondering if he really is guilty.
The story moves back in time to how everything started and how the doctor and this actor began their journey; at a summer house with a swimming pool. Marc brings his wife and two daughters to the house where the actor, his wife, his two children, his mother-in-law, and a couple of famous friends are all staying for vacation. The narrator starts to learn more about the others and reveals these little things to us in sarcastic and blunt snippets. It continues through the vacation as the characters do awful things to each other and are pretty much vile and shallow individuals, showing us all of their good and bad parts.
The voice of this story reminded me, ironically, of the tone of voice used in The Virgin Suicides (the last book I reviewed) in the fact that it was very dry and matter-of-fact, to the point, no frills involved. I loved the writing. Marc’s views are truly pushed on the reader whether they were about his patients, certain types of people, and basically any other uncomfortable life situation. He thinks what he thinks and he isn’t ashamed about it. The thing that bothered me about Marc, however, was the fact that he didn’t seem to learn much or grow throughout the novel. He went through this crazy summer and nothing really came of it. I guess if anything, he was an even worse person at the end.
Overall, it is definitely an unsettling novel that has left me thinking about it for quite awhile, but I won’t miss the characters or the story at all. It was one of those books that I liked and at the same time I couldn’t say that I enjoyed. The writing was dark, the characters were miserable, and the plot was one big train wreck waiting to happen. But I couldn’t get enough of it and I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe all I need now is a summer house with a swimming pool…