On Saturday night, I finished Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch. If you’ve read Koch before, then you know what to expect with his writing style. I’d read his novel The Dinner earlier this year, but it still took me by surprise at times just how crude his writing could be.
This novel was an interesting read because it is written from the perspective of a family doctor – Marc Schlosser. Marc is a very cynical doctor who seems to have a distaste for the human race. He is also a husband and father of two daughters, and his family’s summer vacation is where the real story lies (as you might imagine based on the title).
My sister read this book before me and we had some good conversations about it. She described Koch’s writing style as “raw”, although we both agreed it is hard to find a fitting word for it. She also talked about how it is relatable and also at times upsetting to see how Marc portrayed medical field professionals. (She is a pediatric nurse practitioner.) While some of his inner dialogue is certainly funny – albeit crass – it was also disheartening to think that someone who felt that way would make a living trying to keep us healthy.
The plot line really starts steamrolling about halfway through the book, and, in traditional Koch pattern, the twists and turns keep coming in ways that you never expect or can even guess.
When I reached the last page, my head was still swimming with questions (which, as a reader, I find frustrating). Koch paints an air of suspicion around his stories and the characters in them that make readers question whom they can trust – including if they can trust the writer himself.
*My opinion: Before you read this, read The Dinner. I enjoyed it much more and I think it would help brace someone for the full force of Koch’s style in this novel.*
Rating: 2.7/5 stars
Stats: 400 pages
Recommended for: people who have lost hope in the human race. Just kidding (kind of), but I really wouldn’t say this is a pick-me-up, feel-good story by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re looking to expand your worldview to play witness to the basest, most human side of man’s mind – then this would be a good place to start.
Up Next: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (rumored to be a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon in the future), andThe Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller