Herman Koch possesses the superhuman ability to endear his highly flawed, often morally ambiguous characters to his readers. Like Vladimir Nabokov bef...moreHerman Koch possesses the superhuman ability to endear his highly flawed, often morally ambiguous characters to his readers. Like Vladimir Nabokov before him, Koch utilizes humor and some very deft writing to render sympathetic middle aged men with inappropriate feelings - and general disrespect - for both young girls and women in general. Likewise, he is able to pull off making a doctor's decision to commit vigilante justice seem not just acceptable but morally necessary.
Summer House with Swimming Pool revolves around a vacation home shared by three groups of friends. The first family, actor Ralph Meier, wife Judith and two sons are the wealthy family who rented the home. They invited their family physician, Dr. Mark Schlosser, his wife and two daughters, aged 12 and 14, as well as Hollywood director Stanley Forbes and his indecently young girlfriend to come along with them.
What follows is at first an odd and wacky trip, followed by increasingly disturbing sexual and sexually suggestive situations. All the characters, in turn, feel an attraction for someone else in the group, save perhaps Stanley's young model girlfriend, who is instead an object of lust. What begins as a fun holiday with friends spins further and further out of control, until one of the Schlosser daughters is raped. By whom, is the question.
Dr. Schlosser chooses their host, Ralph Meier, as perpetrator without enough evidence to convict. Yet, when given the opportunity to diagnose Ralph with cancer he instead tells him there's nothing to worry about, effectively handing down a death sentence.
But did Ralph do it? And what gives Schlosser the right to condemn?
Summer House with Swimming Pool is a masterful novel, at once hilarious and highly charged with sexuality. It begs the question who is innocent and how is innocence defined?
I would highly recommend this book as fast-paced and at times keenly funny, noting it presents mature themes. I was so impressed I'll now go back and read his first novel, The Dinner, which I'd been avoiding due to its incredible popularity. If there's one thing that screams "Overrated!" it's great press and holding the top spot on every imaginable list. However, Summer House with Swimming Pool has convinced me Herman Koch is a major talent to be reckoned with. I guess sometimes the masses are right, after all.
[Thank you to Edelweiss for a free e-ARC of this book](less)
I had such high expectations for this novel, all crushed. Pseudo-curmudgeonly bookstore owner - A.J. Fikry - recently widowed after his pregnant wife...moreI had such high expectations for this novel, all crushed. Pseudo-curmudgeonly bookstore owner - A.J. Fikry - recently widowed after his pregnant wife is killed in a car accident, meets a young, up and coming publisher's rep named Amelia. He's somewhat bristly and grumpy, making her feel a failure. She returns home feeling let down and inadequate, only to find that's just how he is, a particular man with a very particular taste in books. All well and good.
He's a literary snob - again, fitting - and a man who knows the value of literature. Occasionally he talks books but not often, considering he is a bookstore owner. His ownership of a copy of Tamerlane was the best indication he has a grasp of the value of rare books, the most interesting detail about A.J. the reader. The fact he derided it, rather than objectifying its importance, was a flash of the crusty nature never allowed to blossom fully. His character just isn't given enough time to develop before the author lets loose with the rest of the plot.
What lost my interest was the breakdown of any opportunity for real tension to develop between A.J. and Amelia or A.J. and anyone. Instead, the author spoon feeds the reader an overly sweet story, not dramatic as much as melodramatic. There was no urgency. The characters were hardly distinguishable from each other, all milksops with barely any personality. Where is the complexity?
There is none.
The novel's written for book groups who prefer mainstream fiction with lots of relationships to dissect, everyday moral dilemmas to further discussion. The author has succeeded in her intent. Aside from that, there's nothing literary, nothing permanent or memorable. (less)