Summer House With Swimming Pool

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch is billed as a "blistering, compulsively readable new novel". The description reads: "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.". Note that almost nothing in the description is an accurate description of what actually ends up happening in the book.

I chose Summer House With Swimming Pool because I thought it would be a great summer read. The description looked like it would be a guilty pleasure medical thriller. I love thrillers, I love medical books, and in the summertime I like to read a guilty pleasure book or two, so what could go wrong? Well ... in a nutshell, almost everything. First of all, the writing style of this book is very abrupt and choppy. I'm not sure if that is Koch's writing style or if it's because it's been translated from Dutch, so I gave that a pass. However, this is the type of book where you will hate every character. They're all vile creatures with almost no redeeming characteristics. Dr. Marc Schlosser, the narrator of this book, is despicable. We're forced to listen to all his rambling, disgusting thoughts throughout the entire book, which was rather unpleasant. All I could think was how much I hated him.

Then, there's the fact that we start off at the "final event" in the first chapter and then kind of work our way backwards through all the events leading up to it. The story jumps around constantly and the narrator is very unreliable in the retelling of the tale. He leaves out important information and then will randomly throw it in (for example, we don't find out he's married until chapter 7). You know something isn't quite right, and you eventually find out what, but it takes a long time to get there you you take the (extremely) scenic route. There are almost no redeeming qualities to this one - you walk away from it feeling dirty and disgusted by the awful characters and their ridiculous actions.

I did enjoy learning a bit more about Dutch culture, medical care, their medical system, and how people there live, and I did keep turning the pages because I wanted to find out what would happen. 2.5 stars. I don't really recommend this one, unless you like dark, depressing books. Also had quite a bit of language (I can overlook some, but don't like too much). Just not my style.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


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