Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

4 Stars

This is the story of Dr. Marc Schlosser and one very memorable vacation he and his family spent at the summer house (with swimming pool, natch) of one of his patients (a middle-aged, loudmouthed, boor of an actor who was so repugnant that I was routing for Marc to either murder him or to have sex with his wife as soon as he was introduced).

I requested an ARC (and was promptly denied) of Summer House With Swimming Pool since I enjoyed The Dinner, last year’s big hit by the same author. When I came over to Goodreads and saw this was designated as another literary/book clubby type of thriller I decided I probably needed to check it out. I briefly glanced at a handful of reviews and noticed several people saying how “deeply disturbing” they found this story. I like deeply disturbing, so that that sealed the deal and I rushed down to the local bibliotheek (that's library in Dutch - see NetGalley, I'm freaking BRILLIANT. Stop declining my requests!!!!).

Now that I’ve finished the book I realize that my deeply disturbing is apparently a lot (and I mean A LOT) more disturbing than the average person. What does it say about me that I really enjoyed Dr. Marc? Don’t answer that – I know exactly what it says:

While Marc is a revolting main character – an overt chauvinist and homophobe who can take any situation and warp it into something sexual (I’m telling you, Dr. Freud would have had a heyday with this guy) or violent, I didn’t find him to be nearly as disturbing as some of my other favorites . . .

(Whooops, wrong Dexter)

Generally I would lower my rating for an advertised thriller that turned out to be not-so-thrilling. The saving grace for Summer House is Koch’s writing. The man is brilliant. He puts the pedal to the metal on page one and never eases up, he can turn a phrase like nobody’s business, and he writes the most despicable characters that I simply can’t get enough of. I’m not usually a huge fan of the first-person narrator, but Koch’s Dr. Schlosser executed his story with damn near perfection.

That’s not to say I found this to be a perfect novel – thus the 4 Stars rather than 5 (duh, right?). It does a little of the bouncy-bouncy with regard to timeline at both the beginning (which I found to be necessary) and at around the 80% mark (which I did not); Marc goes from enjoyably vile to criminally negligent (and not in the way the synopsis might lead you to believe) that made me unable to keep defending his horribleness; and there were maybe one too many “ripped from the headlines” type of recognizable plot points meant to perplex the reader. All that being said, at the end of it all I found this to be a superb follow-up to last year’s blockbuster. I’ll anxiously await Koch’s (and Sam Garrett's – Koch would not rank so high on the enjoyability scale if he did not have such a spectacular translator) next creation.

Recommended to: Anyone who likes to hate everyone in a book and doesn’t mind feeling like they need a good scrub down with some lye-soap and a wire brush after they are finished reading.

Although I was denied an ARC (most likely because I write super-gify reviews and the publisher was terrified what kind of crap I would spew out on this one), I still read/reviewed it anyway. Na-na-na-boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo.

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