• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Herman Koch: Summer House With Swimming Pool (Atlantic)

Dutch author Koch had a huge hit on his hands with his last novel, The Dinner, a story of how the veneer of innocence is stripped away from a middle class family in the course of an evening.

Its follow-up, Summer House With Swimming Pool, doesn't stray too far from that successful formula, in that it wallows in the darkness lurking under the surface of respectability: the thoughts we can't acknowledge and the things we would allow ourselves to do if we thought we could get away with them.

Marc Schlosser is a GP whose patients seem largely to comprise arty types whom Schlosser feels look down on him for being a mere physician. He's become jaded, fed-up with his clientele.

However, he's a little more receptive to celebrated stage actor Ralph Meier, who's about to become even more famous in an HBO series about Augustus Caesar, and accepts an invitation to drop by the Meiers' summer house when he's on holiday with his wife and two daughters.

As the story begins, Meier is already dead and, as a result, Marc faces accusations of malpractice. Later, in flashback, we see the Schlosser family's holiday, their hook-up with the Meiers and the nightmarish circumstances that led, somehow, to Meier's death.

As befits the author of grimly sardonic social satires, Koch seems to delight in an unapologetic, red-blooded form of misanthropy, introducing us to several lecherous, untrustworthy men, chief among them being the sybaritic Meier himself, a fellow of gargantuan appetites who appraises women like fine dishes on a table.

He has an eye for Marc's wife. But Marc also has an eye for his. And Marc's own primal nature isn't hard to awaken either.

It could be argued that Koch is too relentlessly cynical about human beings, but his comedic sense is clearly engaged at all times, and, furthermore, like a thriller writer, he understands that darkness and grit can drive a plot and ramp up tension like nothing else. Even more than The Dinner, Summer House With Swimming Pool has the capacity to induce discomfort, but it shares that book's ridiculous readability, daring one, in vain, to try putting it down between chapters.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

245163