Warning – Make sure you’re in the mood for cynicism of the deepest, darkest kind before embarking on this read. More importantly, if you’re coming to this after enjoying Koch’s The Dinner, you will miss the charm. This will take you to places you may find tasteless and revolting ….
…. but, if you’re like me, you will keep reading regardless.
Why? A fascination with the medical profession, particularly with doctors behaving badly.
The narrator, Marc Schlosser, is a successful GP, a man with no real interest in his celebrity clients, but he knows how to dispense an illusion of professional care. While he may be hiding his boorish, and even misanthropic thoughts from his patients, he’s not afraid of revealing all to the reader. That includes medical details that maybe you’d rather not know, together with the chilling ease with which a doctor can make a patient cross the thin line between life and death.
So, when his most famous client dies of cancer, and his wife accuses him of murder, the question to be answered is was this a case of medical negligence or something more sinister?
All is revealed as the story of a shared holiday unfolds: a tawdry tale of hedonistic, celebrity lifestyle, moral ambiguity and dubious motives during which the reader’s sympathometer to Schlosser swings ever lower. It’s not until the inevitable tragedy happens to one of his own, that we begin to see a genuine, kinder side to him.
There will be repercussions and it’s very unlikely that the sympathometer will retain a positive reading, given that Koch specialises in the nasty side of human nature. Schlosser’s voice is relentless and his pretensions and self-delusion grandiose. I did, however, enjoy the irony that came with an eye injury, details of which are not for the squeamish. The injury temporarily renders Schlosser sightless in one eye, just as he can only half see the perpetrator of the holiday crime. When his sight is restored, his inner eye reveals the answer. He has no idea that he has been hoodwinked and that he is about to make the biggest misjudgment of his life …..
This is a deeply unpleasant tale, possibly – no, definitely – not in the best possible taste, but I did enjoy it. Life isn’t always sunny, not even in a summer house with a swimming pool.
I’m currently reading this, almost done, and I’ll have a review up in a day or two. Then we can talk properly about this fascinating novel. Fascinating as in you can’t pull your eyes away from the train wreck happening right before you. Right now, I’m just hoping he doesn’t leave me unsure of who the culprit is…
I really enjoyed this book. Here is a short review I wrote for the Booktrust.
Herman Koch is a well known Dutch TV star who found worldwide fame as an author with his award-winning 2009 novel The Dinner. Given Koch’s acting background, it is not surprising that one of the main characters in Summer House with Swimming Pool is also an actor – the over-bearing, male chauvinist, Ralph Meier.
The first-person narrator here is Ralph’s general practitioner, Dr Marc Schlosser, who along with his family – his wife Caroline and two young daughters – takes up his patient’s invitation to join him, his own family and a couple of other guests at a rented villa somewhere in the southern Mediterranean. Thus begins a heady cocktail of sun, pool, alcohol, teeming hormones and sexual tensions culminating in an unfortunate event at a beach party(no spoilers here!) that traumatises the guests and drives a wedge of suspicion between the families.
While the fall-out from this event is what makes this novel a page-turner right to the very end, Koch brings far more to his work than just a pacy storyline full of twists and turns. Marc Schlosser is a brutally honest and extremely cynical narrator who provides both fascinating and disturbing insights into his distaste for the bodies of his patients, the psyche of the male sexual predator as well the fraught nature of the father-daughter relationship. Although this can sometimes be an uncomfortable read, it is one tempered by wicked humour. Highly recommended.
Oh God, so interesting and yet; I am both intrigued by the cynicism and put off my the medical element. I’m pathetically squeamish.