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Summer House with Swimming Pool ****** Herman Koch Dr. Marc Schlosser leads a comfortable and privileged existence as the general physician to the elite circles of the rich and famous. He is married to an intelligent, beautiful woman and has two gorgeous daughters. Things could be worse. Well, things could be better, too. If only he didn’t actually have to treat his patients. He despises them so. But none of them can quite push his buttons like Ralph Meier, the highly acclaimed actor who has recently joined this prominent list. The man openly lusts after Marc’s wife, Caroline, and is the embodiment of a chauvinistic pig. Probably not a great idea to take him up on his offer and spend the summer vacation with him and his family. However, if you happen to want to experience some carnal knowledge of Ralph’s wife, Judith, you got to do what you got to do. So Marc does. Unfortunately things go terribly wrong and people end up hurt. And dead. This is not a typical mystery/crime novel, but I placed it in this category because it still possesses all the classic elements of one, namely the detective motif, the mystery and the murder, albeit with a somewhat unconventional approach to both crime-solving and retribution. As opposed to most action-filled books in this genre, Summer House with Swimming Pool makes a much more static impression, it concentrates on the interhuman dynamics: the character study with all their ugliness, the dysfunctional behavior and deeply questionable urges. A world of lecherous men and morally ambivalent women. The one night of chaos and violence when things spin out of control serves as the central point for the plot, everything else before and after pretty much revolves around those events. Granted that I am a bit of a misanthrope myself (in my defense I live in Vegas where people are not very nice), but compared to me the author can definitely be perceived as downright hard-core in that aspect. This novel shocks and challenges the reader from the very beginning, with the protagonist in great detail describing how intensely he disdains the human race in general, and his own patients in particular. How ridiculous and disgusting he finds the human body. After reading those pages you will never look at a doctor in the same way again or maybe even feel comfortable visiting one. Oh yes, Marc is definitely one unethical, cynical and twisted dude. With the most derogatory, flippant attitude. Under that caring, very faux “medic” persona layers of sinister contempt are just waiting to come to the surface. Mr. Koch has certainly succeeded in creating a very daring, unapologetic novel. His honest, often brutal style of writing fascinates and repels at the same time. The controversy, however, lies mostly in the depiction of the characters, thus indirectly presenting the whole mankind as being driven by the most primal, crude instincts. The emphasis is placed on biology, the human being is not portrayed as the sophisticated, advanced individual he is capable of becoming, but a relatively simple animalistic creature ultimately mostly influenced by his basic urges and physiological functions. Following their worst impulses and selfish desires, none of those protagonists display even the slightest trace of guilt or remorse. So what we have here is a jaded, misanthropic doctor. An obnoxious, misogynist actor. An explosive combination indeed. Especially if they both fancy each other’s women. And in the midst of all the intrigue and games we are confronted with the question: how far is a person allowed to go to save the world from somebody he perceives as a threat? Should it be morally justifiable for someone to serve as a self-appointed judge and executioner in one? Can we inflict our own sense of right and wrong onto others? Does that make me a righteous vigilante hero? Or simply a monster? I would definitely recommend this novel to anybody not opposed to provocation and exposing some of the less attractive sides of humanity. Because uplifting or inspiring it is not. But interesting it is. And quite brilliantly written to boot.                     
RATING     ****** excellent     ***** very good     ****good     *** average     ** pretty bad     * horrible
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Summer House with Swimming Pool ****** Herman Koch Dr. Marc Schlosser leads a comfortable and privileged existence as the general physician to the elite circles of the rich and famous. He is married to an intelligent, beautiful woman and has two gorgeous daughters. Things could be worse. Well, things could be better, too. If only he didn’t actually have to treat his patients. He despises them so. But none of them can quite push his buttons like Ralph Meier, the highly acclaimed actor who has recently joined this prominent list. The man openly lusts after Marc’s wife, Caroline, and is the embodiment of a chauvinistic pig. Probably not a great idea to take him up on his offer and spend the summer vacation with him and his family. However, if you happen to want to experience some carnal knowledge of Ralph’s wife, Judith, you got to do what you got to do. So Marc does. Unfortunately things go terribly wrong and people end up hurt. And dead. This is not a typical mystery/crime novel, but I placed it in this category because it still possesses all the classic elements of one, namely the detective motif, the mystery and the murder, albeit with a somewhat unconventional approach to both crime-solving and retribution. As opposed to most action-filled books in this genre, Summer House with Swimming Pool makes a much more static impression, it concentrates on the interhuman dynamics: the character study with all their ugliness, the dysfunctional behavior and deeply questionable urges. A world of lecherous men and morally ambivalent women. The one night of chaos and violence when things spin out of control serves as the central point for the plot, everything else before and after pretty much revolves around those events. Granted that I am a bit of a misanthrope myself (in my defense I live in Vegas where people are not very nice), but compared to me the author can definitely be perceived as downright hard-core in that aspect. This novel shocks and challenges the reader from the very beginning, with the protagonist in great detail describing how intensely he disdains the human race in general, and his own patients in particular. How ridiculous and disgusting he finds the human body. After reading those pages you will never look at a doctor in the same way again or maybe even feel comfortable visiting one. Oh yes, Marc is definitely one unethical, cynical and twisted dude. With the most derogatory, flippant attitude. Under that caring, very faux “medic” persona layers of sinister contempt are just waiting to come to the surface. Mr. Koch has certainly succeeded in creating a very daring, unapologetic novel. His honest, often brutal style of writing fascinates and repels at the same time. The controversy, however, lies mostly in the depiction of the characters, thus indirectly presenting the whole mankind as being driven by the most primal, crude instincts. The emphasis is placed on biology, the human being is not portrayed as the sophisticated, advanced individual he is capable of becoming, but a relatively simple animalistic creature ultimately mostly influenced by his basic urges and physiological functions. Following their worst impulses and selfish desires, none of those protagonists display even the slightest trace of guilt or remorse. So what we have here is a jaded, misanthropic doctor. An obnoxious, misogynist actor. An explosive combination indeed. Especially if they both fancy each other’s women. And in the midst of all the intrigue and games we are confronted with the question: how far is a person allowed to go to save the world from somebody he perceives as a threat? Should it be morally justifiable for someone to serve as a self-appointed judge and executioner in one? Can we inflict our own sense of right and wrong onto others? Does that make me a righteous vigilante hero? Or simply a monster? I would definitely recommend this novel to anybody not opposed to provocation and exposing some of the less attractive sides of humanity. Because uplifting or inspiring it is not. But interesting it is. And quite brilliantly written to boot.                     
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