Summer House with Swimming Pool Summary and Reviews

Summer House with Swimming Pool

by Herman Koch

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2015
    416 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

The blistering, compulsively readable new novel from Herman Koch, author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Dinner.

When a medical procedure goes horribly wrong and famous actor Ralph Meier winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser needs to come up with some answers. After all, reputation is everything in this business. Personally, he's not exactly upset that Ralph is gone, but as a high profile doctor to the stars, Marc can't hide from the truth forever.

It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meier's extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife Judith, her mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the large group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. As the ultimate holiday soon turns into a nightmare, the circumstances surrounding Ralph's later death begin to reveal the disturbing reality behind that summer's tragedy.

Featuring the razor-sharp humor and acute psychological insight that made The Dinner an international phenomenon, Summer House with Swimming Pool is a controversial, thought-provoking novel that showcases Herman Koch at his finest.

Published in hardcover by Hogarth in 2014. Paperback reprint: June 2015


About the Author
Herman Koch is the author of eight novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in twenty-five countries, and was an international bestseller. He currently lives in Amsterdam.

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Some of the recent comments posted about Summer House with Swimming Pool:

Can Julia be blamed for what happens to her? Should she have handled it differently?
No, Julia was only 13. Hormones are raging at that age. Her parents seemed clueless about what might happen. A child at that age needs better supervision than what she had. - llsmill

Did you find yourself taking sides?
As between Marc and Ralph, I did not take sides. Both characters were terribly flawed and deserved each other. Marc, however, was much more dangerous. Ralph was so transparent, so "in your face" with his narcissistic and lecherous behavior. In ... - roberts

Do you agree with the way Caroline and Marc behaved? Do you think they're good parents?
Absolutely not. I think that they were irresponsible and selfish re. Julia and demonstrated poor parenting. - shirleyf

Do you believe that anyone in this novel is worthy of trust? How would you describe this book's view of human nature, and does it match your own?
Concurring with many of the other respondents I also find only Caroline to be a trustworthy adult. While we can and should question Caroline's parenting skills, Koch gives us no reason to question her trustfulness. Unlike the other adult characters (... - roberts

Do you think Marc's lack of empathy is common in the medical profession? How does this detachment affect the way he relates to his family and friends?
I worked in health care for 40 yrs and I really cannot say that Marc is like anyone who I've ever met. Sure we have to distance ourselves from our patients but Marc did more than that. He was completely egocentric (self-centered) as well as ... - shirleyf

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Though it's a bit too long, make no mistake: very few real-world events will distract readers from finishing this addictive book in one or two sittings." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. As in The Dinner, Koch continues to illuminate ways in which our Freudian unconscious takes dreadful revenge on the ego, often disproportionate to the perceived slight." - Library Journal

"It's a slow burn, but Koch's deft and nuanced exploration of gender, guilt, and vengeance make his second novel to be translated into English an absorbing read." - Booklist

"Disquieting...A sly psychological thriller lurks within this pitch-dark comedy of manners." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Elizabeth T.

A Disturbing but Addictive Read!
After reading three pages of this book, Herman Koch became this summer's "it" author for me. I was completely engrossed for days, then I ran to download his earlier novel, "The Dinner," and ripped through that one, too. But -- here are my serious reservations -- I would recommend this book ONLY to a certain kind of weird reader, such as myself, who enjoys the intricate and twisted psychology of careless and dangerous people, who doesn't need to like or identify with the characters, and who finds it interesting, not to say compelling, to follow the distorted rationalizations of a completely unreliable narrator. It's a really unsettling book, one that can leave you physically and morally seasick as you attempt to return to normal life after leaving its troubled and ultimately doomed world. Briefly, Dr. Marc Schlosser, who tells the story, and whose personal outlook and medical ethics are completely upsetting to any decent person, gets involved socially and professionally, with a bunch of people whom he knows are creepy right away. Nevertheless, the good doctor takes his wife and their two beautiful and innocent preadolescent daughters on vacation with them, and the forebodings of doom darken with every chapter. I've always wanted to gain insight into the kind of parent that exposes young daughters, just at the time of their utmost vulnerability and allure, to the most exploitative kind of environments. Are they in denial? Don't they care? Anyway, reading about these young creatures romping around among beasts of prey is both hair-raising and addictive, or at least it was for me. I didn't care for the ending -- I felt it was a stretch, and it gave the guilty players a free pass -- but when I lent the book on to a good friend, she read the first chapter, shuddered, and returned it. Oh, and did I say, I couldn't have borne the point of view if Koch weren't a totally excellent writer, which he is!

Cloggie Downunder

A brilliant novel
Summer House With Swimming Pool is the seventh novel by Dutch actor, television and radio producer, newspaper columnist and author, Herman Koch, and the second book to be translated into English. Dr Marc Schlosser, a General Physician whose patients appreciate the time he takes with them, is summoned to appear before the Board of Medical Examiners. One of his patients, celebrity actor Ralph Meier, has died, and a question hangs over his medical management. Some eighteen months earlier, Marc, his wife and two daughters spent a week at a Mediterranean summer house with Meier’s family, an ageing Hollywood director and his very young girlfriend. Most of Marc’s narration is spent recounting, in hindsight, the events of that vacation that led to a shocking climax, and its aftermath. Koch so cleverly crafts his story that the reader is left wondering exactly what crimes or misdeeds were committed during that summer interlude, and by whom. While Marc’s narration is entirely reliable, it is, of course, wholly biased, and it is equally apparent that others who contribute to the account of events have their own agendas. Many of the characters are easy to find loathsome or obnoxious and none is quite what they first seem to be. Marc demonstrates an ability to shift priorities and abandon responsibility with breath-taking ease, as well as a cold, calculating nature, which makes his actions seem thoroughly plausible. Koch’s novel touches on the Dutch medical system, paedophiles, what is appropriate treatment of sexual deviants, justice, revenge and taking the law into one’s own hands. It is a given that we cannot know mere acquaintances to any significant degree, but Koch’s novel will have the reader questioning just how well we can truly know those really close to us: our children, our parents and our spouses. Koch gives the reader some marvellously descriptive prose (his depiction of abscesses and tumours is particularly imaginative) and he inserts some moments of sharp (and occasionally quite dark) humour to relieve the building tension. Female readers will be grateful that not all men are this shallow and most readers will hope their doctor is not this cynical. This thought-provoking, powerful, and compelling read is flawlessly translated by Sam Garrett. A brilliant novel that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

B

Summer house with Swimming Pool
I made it through 100 pages of this book before deciding I didn’t like any of the characters and I truly didn’t care if Ralph was murdered or it was just a horrible mistake. Marc, the doctor who made the mistake or committed the murder, was an especially unlikeable person. He was selfish and narcissistic to the extreme. Ralph wasn’t much better. They were both lecherous towards the other’s wife within minutes of meeting (apparently not an unusual happening).

There was supposed to be humor somewhere in this book, but it hadn’t occurred by page 100 (out of 385). Marc didn’t like camping and I didn’t like Marc so I guess we are even. Skip this one.

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Author Information

Herman Koch Author Biography

Photo © Mark Kohn, Hollandse Hoogte

Herman Koch (born 1953) is an internationally bestselling author. The translation rights of The Dinner (2009) have been sold to over 55 countries, which is unprecedented for a modern Dutch novel. The Dinner has been adapted into several international stage plays and into a Dutch and Italian movie. The US movie adaptation of The Dinner will be screened in 2017, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and Dear Mr M. (2014) are international bestsellers as well.

Link to Herman Koch's Website

Name Pronunciation
Herman Koch: Coke

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