Book Reviews / Fiction / Suspense-thrillers / Thrillers

Book Review: Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

My rating ****

Herman Koch is a Dutch writer whose writing certainly has a class that can stand on its own. Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch is an exquisite prose whose characters impresses strongly on our mind. The lively human landscape Koch creates seems innocent of any big comment on life and he wisely refrains from putting to use denizens of his fictional world or the logic of their fortunes to an illustrative purpose. Koch’s attitude is of complete detachment. He watches his characters’ actions bemused and without a wish to alter them. Against this, a pattern seems to emerge out in the form of struggle with circumstance. And then, these is always the little germ, the impulse towards enlargement, at first only dimly felt as a stirring within the bowels, without conscious direction or force.


Most of the characters of this book are far from perfect. These characters slip in and out of focus as the reader watches the morally complex individuals fade or glow into the simpler but interrupted outline of the legendary type. These characters are not merely morally but aesthetically imperfect, incomplete.

The main protagonist of the novel is Dr. Marc Schlosser, a general practitioner. The book begins with Dr. Schlosser being suspected of a medical misconduct supposedly contributing to the death of a famous actor named Ralph Meier. Ralph has been depicted as one who sometimes was having strong appetite for the female body. The opening pages of the book tell us that something had gone terribly wrong between Dr. Schlosser and Ralph Meiser. So, was Dr. Schlosser really responsible for the death of Ralph Meiser? Well, one has to read the book to know the truth behind Ralph Meiser’s death. The one thing that I can disclose though is that the book is much more than just exploring the reasons that led to the death of the famous actor. After reading the book, we become aware of various submerged layers of interests of which the characters of this book get involved. While the mingled mockery of this surface spectacle in which characters’ little souls get involved invite scrutiny from reader’s side, at another level the same forces the readers to think hard. The aspect of time present or time passing in this book seems to have the evanescence of waves on water, but the permanence of object impresses itself strongly on our mind.

Let us talk something more about the main protagonist of this beautifully crafted novel. Dr. Schlosser is a doctor who views his patients with contempt and shows utter disregard for the human body. He examines his patients using strategies to avoid any contact with human flesh. While this doctor may make some readers to detest him strongly, the thoughts that go through this doctor’s mind will certainly fascinate them. From the moment Dr. Schlosser enters in the story, he suggests something of his fickle identity. That is why it becomes easier for readers to accept the way he is portrayed.

A notable feature of Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch is the shifts of focus, not only in the movement from detail to detail in single episodes, and between successive episodes, but also between large chunks of storytelling. Narrative is very smooth and operates in more thematically expressive ways. While some readers may get disappointed with the ending, the rest of the book is just brilliant. I would definitely be reading more of Koch in future.

Strongly recommended….:)

A Note of Caution: The book contains some graphic scenes.

(I received an advance reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through Bostick Communications in exchange of an honest review.)

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