Koch, Herman - 'Summer House With Swimming Pool' (translated by Sam Garrett)
"Oh, sweetheart. It isn't dirty, is it, the way men look at women? Or women at men, for that matter? I mean, that Ralph Meier is a real ladies' man, everything about him. It's probably not very nice for his wife, but OK, it was her choice. A woman can tell that right away, the kind of man she's with."
Holland - present day.
Eighteen months ago Ralph Meier, a celebrated actor, came to the surgery; Marc's practice is a draw for creative types and Meier had heard from a friend that Marc can be very accommodating with certain prescriptions. So Ralph Meier became a patient but now - he is dead and Marc is due to appear before the Board of Medical Examiners tomorrow. Not for the "prescriptions", but for what you might describe as a "medical error". In fact when Marc attended Ralph's funeral at an exclusive riverside cemetery, he was spotted by Judith, Ralph's widow, who marched right up to him and spat in his face.
SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL tells the story of Marc Schlosser, a successful family doctor with a lovely wife and two young teenage daughters, whose years spent tending a client list drawn from the rich and famous have blunted his zeal and fostered his cynicism. Marc and his wife are drawn into the family circle of actor Ralph Meier, resulting in an invitation to spend some time at the Meier's rented summer home. Marc is at first reluctant but his attraction to Judith, Ralph's wife, brings out the devious in him and he engineers a visit after all. The promised dubious delights of sand, sea and barbecues "chez Meier" end one night with a shocking and brutal event which has dreadful consequences for everyone.
This is the sixth novel by Dutch writer and actor Herman Koch. It is translated by Sam Garrett, an American translator who is a long-term resident of Amsterdam and who also translated Koch's previous and internationally successful novel - THE DINNER. Judging by this novel, Koch's writing is not so much mainstream crime as dark analyses of modern morals and consequences. Koch sets up an uneasy tableau in SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL. His ambivalent protagonist, Schlosser, supplies witty and satirical pokes at the pretensions of contemporary artistic life but he seems oblivious to his own hypocrisies. Koch has said that "Unlikeable characters are always more fun than too likeable ones" and he certainly establishes his characters as distinct and readable, with some implying an even seedier underbelly to success. But the real impact of this dark study of the success of "unlikeable" people lies in the climbing tensions and cross currents within the story that turns it into a modern-day tale of jealousies, revenge and death with a tragic sting worthy of any Shakespearean drama played by Ralph Meier. A thoroughly recommended "read".
Lynn Harvey, England
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