Saturday, 20 September 2014

Summer House with Swimming Pool

As soon as I began reading this novel, I was struck by how much the prose reminded me of Vladimir Nbokov's Lolita. There is the narcissistic narrator, almost proud of his repulsive character, there's the sense of sexual wrongdoing, there's the plot, which constantly makes you question your morals.

Narrated by a professionally frustrated family doctor to the stars in Holland, March Schloss, the story weaves it's way through pivotal months in his and his family's life.

Part domestic thriller, part traditional literary fiction, The Summer House with Swimming Pool  is about moral dilemmas just like Lolita, and Koch's previous novel, The Dinner. Also just as in that novel, we soon realise almost no one in the story is innocent, or doesn't have something to hide, or is thoroughly selfish, or unlikeable (in itself not a crime). 

The main character, March Schloss, is a doctor, and the inner thoughts he reveals to us are what we all fear; that doctors are only human and as such detest having to inspect hairy bottoms, or have sick people cough phlegm at their face. What Dr Schloss has to tell us none us want to hear. We soon realise that Dr Schloss' world view is more skewed than normal and largely  based on the biology lectures of a discredited professor. But as the plot unwinds, we come to realise our narrator does have reason to be unhinged and we begin to understand why he carries such rage within him. But does his situation justify his actions? 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this powerful novel. It's shocking, and at times even a difficult read, but Koch's skilful writing makes the effort worthwhile in the end. I couldn't recommend this book highly enough.

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