Book review: Summer House with Swimming Pool

Herman KochIn Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch, Dr Marc Schlosser is popular with his patients because he doesn’t tell them they smoke too much or drink too much, he doesn’t tell them to lose weight, he doesn’t lecture them. So he becomes a popular general practitioner amongst the arty set. They invite him to their premieres, he doesn’t want to go. Basically, he takes the easy way out; if a patient presents with a symptom he doesn’t recognise or is disgusting, he refers the patient to a specialist. Except Ralph Meier, the famous actor. Although Marc doesn’t like Ralph, he is sucked into the actor’s entourage.

This is the story of one summer when Marc’s family stays at the summer villa rented by Ralph. Throw their wives into the mix, two teenage Meier sons and two teenage Schlosser daughters, plus a film director and his decorative girlfriend, summer heat, a swimming pool and a beach, and you can see trouble looming. It’s how Marc reacts to that trouble that makes the story. I found myself thinking ‘he’s not really going to do that is he? Oh, he has.’

Marc is a very unreliable narrator, skilfully handled by Koch [below]. I didn’t trust him, I didn’t like him, but he made me laugh. His intolerances and lack of patience struck a chord with me [which should get me worried!]. Is it a story of medical incompetence or murder, I will let you decide. It is certainly a story of misunderstandings. The people are unlikeable, but the story draws you on. It is an excellent book to throw into the discussion about why all characters in fiction must be nice: we are not all nice, we all have light and dark in us, we all have habits we would rather keep to ourselves. So fiction should be populated by realistic characters.

But I am pleased Dr Marc Schlosser is not my doctor.

Herman Koch

[photo: Mark Kohn-Hollandse Hoogte]

Here are two reviews of Koch’s previous book, the award-winning The Dinner:-
Click here for The Guardian’s review…
… and here for the NY Times review.

If you like this, try:-
‘Doppler’ by Erlend Loe
‘Jellyfish’ by Lev D Lewis
‘The Ship’ by Antonia Honeywell

‘Summer House with Swimming Pool’ by Herman Koch [UK: Atlantic Books] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL by Herman Koch #bookreview via @SandraDanby


  1. I am so torn about this book — maybe I’ve just read too many reactions. It’s on my TBR, but I think I’ll wait awhile so I can approach it fresh.