Summer House with Swimming PoolSummer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

not for the squeamish.

i mean that in two senses: squeamish about the body and its horrors when something goes wrong with it, and about examining a most-taboo subject: how adult men feel about little girls.

this book seems to have provoked actual disgust in some reviewers, even when they otherwise seem to appreciate the book. in a dark way. i find that rather interesting, myself. maybe one has to have a misanthropic streak to find the book rather gleeful, in a horrible way.

our protag, Marc Schlosser, is a GP with a dubious practice. he seems less interested in bullying his patients into health than in just keeping his boat afloat–they can be horrendous boozers (and he later proves to be no slouch in that regard), massively overweight, or just the eternally worried well. he gives them a good listening-to (sort of), writes prescriptions for things they want but that aren’t good for them, and sends them on their way happy. business is booming.

but one patient ends up a little closer to home–a thoroughly repulsive actor, Ralph Meier, who ends up inviting the good doctor and his family to his summer home.

nastiness ensues.

besides the inexhaustible mine of human physical frailty, there’s a dark, dark streak also on the table here–how adult men feel about young girls, girls on the verge of womanhood. this is what gives the book its significance. i can’t recall a book that examines this repellant aspect of the psyche (i never read Lolita, and don’t particularly want to). i think Koch was rather brave to go there, and try to look under that particular rock.

i read the book in its entirety today, and rather like wolfing down a giant burrito, it’s gonna take a while to digest. i’ll re-read it again in time and try to remember to come back and add something intelligent to this review. but dear reader(s?), in the meantime, if you’re feeling strong, i suggest you give it a try. just don’t do it right before a doctor’s appointment.