15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Can't Stop Thinking About This One,
This review is from: Summer House with Swimming Pool: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Right off the bat you know you are dealing with an extremely unreliable narrator in Herman Koch’s new novel, “Summer House with Swimming Pool”. Marc Schlosser is a doctor; a bad doctor. He even tells us this: “I’m a doctor.” “I do my best to act interested.” And “I pretend to look.”
Marc is pretty much a jerk; he’s conceited, chauvinistic, devious, narcissistic and arrogant. He’s fussy about, and turned off by, the human body in a way you don’t expect a doctor to be. In fact, WARNING TO THE SQUEAMISH: there are quite graphic descriptions of bodies, bodily activities and bodily fluids in this novel, and a particularly graphic description of an infected eyeball.
The story takes place in the Netherlands. We know up front that Marc is being investigated because one of his patients, a famous actor named Ralph Meier, died due to a “medical error”. But the more we read what happened to Ralph and his strange relationship with Marc and his family, the more we start to question whether Marc did, or failed to do, something that hastened Ralph’s demise. And it is revealed that Ralph is an even bigger jerk than Marc – at least as described by our unreliable protagonist, Marc.
Marc frequently goes off on tangents about various topics from the Dutch Socialized medicine infrastructure to the evolution of human reproduction. All of his pronouncements about medicine, society, and science, are suspect. He states; “Most phobias originate in the first four years of life…” is that true? He’s too unreliable to believe, but that’s what makes him, and this story, so compelling! I raced through the novel, eager to see what was going to surprise and/or horrify me next.
Just when the reader is at the pinochle of disgust with Marc something terrible happens and we start to pity him…almost. Ultimately being in Marc’s head is disturbing and depressing. He views all women as inferior creatures and sex objects. While Marc is horrified that anyone would look upon his 13 year old daughter as a sex object, he is a huge hypocrite by being willing to allow her to be a model for another lecher. How does he think society gets “okay” with sexualizing children?
I know that not all men think about women like they are brainless “sexual treats” the way Marc and Ralph do, but plenty do. Plenty do. I’m giving this book 5 stars, not because I liked the subject and the characters, but because once it got going I simply couldn’t put it down, and now I can’t stop thinking about it.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 30, 2014 6:05:04 PM PDT
Mary--I must get to this one soon! Your enthusiasm is infectious!
Posted on Jun 1, 2014 6:52:42 AM PDT
Jill I. Shtulman says:
Excellent review, Mary! I finally finished and ended up really close to you in my own interpretation. The last two-thirds of the book were page-turning.
Posted on Aug 20, 2014 3:48:21 PM PDT
Roger Brunyate says:
Mary, I see I just needed to scroll down. I agree with you about everything here except for two things. I do not see Marc an an unreliable narrator: horrible, yes, but at least he is honest with us about his foibles, even though he conceals them from his patients. I also could not put it down, though turned off by the subject and characters, but that did not equate to five stars in my view, not nearly. I was interested in your sentence "something terrible happens and we start to pity him... almost." That "almost" is indeed the key. I think we WERE meant to pity him, but the way Koch had written him made this impossible. Roger.
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