The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ 'Summer House With Swimming Pool'

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ 'Summer House With Swimming Pool'

Hardcover Honey Jocelyn's Book of the Week

Summer House With Swimming Pool – Herman Koch

Unpleasant people doing nasty things to each other? Yes, please. This second Herman Koch book, after the equally unsettling The Dinner, broadens the scope a bit with a slightly larger cast of characters, but only slightly larger. 

Our unreliable (and frankly kind of an asshole to boot) narrator is Dr. Marc Schlosser, a successful general practitioner, in part due to his loose hand with the prescription pad and his willingness to overlook the unhealthy habits of his artsy patient base. Marc is married to the frankly saint-like Caroline and has two lovely daughters, the 13-year-old gangly beauty Julia, and her younger sister Lisa.

Marc’s newest patient is the corpulent stage actor Ralph Meier, who we are told at the outset of the book has died, and his grieving widow Judith blames Marc. But why? The book deftly backtracks us through a summer vacation Marc and his family take that causes their paths to cross with the Meier family, which luckily enough includes two well-mannered sons who want to spend time with Marc’s daughters. Who can say "no" to their kids when their kids would rather stay someplace with running water and electricity, rather than the camping that Marc’s wife prefers?

Author Herman Koch
In addition to the Schlossers and the Meiers, also in residence at the summer house are famous director Stanley, a Roman Polanski type, and his much younger girlfriend Emmanuelle, who never takes off her sunglasses and only seems to come to life when she’s being photographed. So there’s lots of eating and drinking and nude swimming and flirting and a general sense of a pressure-cooker tension building.  

We know from the start that Marc is not as he appears, because although he is careful to present a caring façade to his patients, his disgust for them and their failing bodies and lack of self-control is evident almost immediately. Here Koch shines as he describes the dark dank sweaty areas we’d all rather pretend we don’t possess. Alcohol seeping through pores, fat surrounding and slowing vital organs, all detailed in horrific precision. Basically, I almost called my doc to apologize for the extra 10 lbs I am carrying around.  Ok, 12.

Not for nothing did this remind me of the equally tense movie Swimming Pool of a few years ago and not just because of the similar name.  When the story builds to one especially ugly night that has lasting repercussions for both families, the summer house with swimming pool of the title seems less like a fun getaway and more like purgatory.

This was a fast read with enough to keep me interested – and whatever snide hostile characters Koch comes up with for his next book will surely keep me interested as well. Would I want to spend a vacation with these folks?  Hell, no; I will stick to my annual trip to the lake with my in-laws, which is (mostly!) conflict-free. Knock on wood.

Hardcover Honey verdict – 3.5 out of 5 tiny incisions

What are you reading this week? 
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