Author: Herman Koch
Publication Date: June 3, 2014 (English version)
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Summary from Goodreads:
When a medical mistake goes horribly wrong and Ralph Meier, a famous actor, winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser is forced to conceal the error from his patients and family. After all, reputation is everything in this business. But the weight of carrying such a secret lies heavily on his mind, and he can't keep hiding from the truth…or the Board of Medical Examiners.
The problem is that the real truth is a bit worse than a simple slipup.
There is a lot (LOT) more to the book description above if you look at the Goodreads link, but I didn't include it because I think it's SUPER SUPER spoilery. And there are few things I dislike more than a spoilery book description!
If you've read The Dinner (Koch's other English-translated novel...review HERE), you likely suspect that this book is rather dark and unsettling. And if so, you're 100% correct. To paraphrase my thoughts on the other novel, I was impressed with the character development (none of them were quite what they seemed) but put off by the farfetched nature of many of their actions, as well as the slow-moving plot action.
That said, I believe I enjoyed Summer House with Swimming Pool more than The Dinner. This was likely in part because I already knew what to expect from Koch, so the things that threw me off about the first novel didn't ruffle my feathers in this one. Again, we have highly unlikeable characters all the way around (there's no other way to say it--the protagonist, Marc, is a straight-up a-hole), characters making very questionable choices, and inaccurate medical details that are often sprung from Koch's imagination. However, one big difference is that I did not find the plot slow-moving at all in Summer House--something new was constantly being revealed, and the book takes place over a longer time period, so there was more to keep me involved as things moved along.
This combination of elements worked better for me this time around. Koch has created an exceptionally thrilling, foreboding novel here, one that is sure to leave you feeling uneasy long after you finish reading. (Seriously, some of the subject matter in this one is really stomach-turning at times.) The "summer house" in question is brought into the novel as Marc (in the midst of the medical error that was mentioned above) flashes us back to the previous summer, when he and his family vacationed with the doomed Ralph Meier at a rental house on the coast. The sinister nature of the novel's events come together slowly, which kept me riveted from beginning to end. I had an inkling of what was going on before it was actually revealed, but that didn't make the buildup to the conclusion any less absorbing.
Overall, an excellent read, if not terribly unsettling. I need to go read something about unicorns or fluffy puppies to even myself out. If Koch can take a beautiful summer vacation and turn it into something horrific, I can't wait to see what he'll take on next.
What's the most disturbing novel you've read lately?
Ever rented a summer house? Where? DETAILS! (I'm still waiting for the snow to melt here, give me some hope.)