Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
Herman Koch first came to my attention when I read a review of his first work, The Dinner. It was translated from the original dutch in 2012, and was immensely popular in book clubs around the world, mostly I think, due to the fact that the whole novel is written over the progression of one night at dinner between two brothers and their spouses. I enjoyed the premise for this novel, and thoroughly enjoyed the way the author unrolled the story from a simple meeting to the turmoil bubbling beneath the surface.
So it was with anticipation that I jumped onto his next novel — Summer House with Swimming Pool. Again, the story unravels as you progress through the book at a pace that keeps you captivated and tense to find out how the story will develop. It is based on a GP, Dr Marc Schlosser, who is successful in his career, but in his narration allows you to question his ethics and his misanthropic attitude. He is a potential social climber whose clientele tended to be wealthy, rich and famous, and particularly known for his “relaxed” attitude to dispensing prescriptions.
One of his clients, Ralph — an actor of fine repute, and living his life to the full, invites Dr Schlosser and his family (wife and two girls) to come and stay at their summer house (hence, the title). What unfolds at the summer house will change their lives forever. There are others at the Summer House and their days are filled with swimming in the pool, table tennis, trips to the beach and BBQs. It all seems fairly innocent, until the undercurrents begin to appear and the ambitions of their own desires and impulses lead to an unfortunate event. Without giving too much away, (no need for a spoiler alert here!) everything falls apart, putting the reader in the grips of a psychological thriller!
This book kept me in suspense right through to the end. With Dr Schlosser as narrator, translating his emotions into medical terms, as if analysing things from the doctors surgery, allows him to disentangle himself from emotional ties. The way he views his daughters and their relationships, his relationship with his wife, give away his faults. It is a superb summer read.