Book Review: Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

This is one of those books that, when you finish the last page, you say, “Wow.” The emotional pull of the protagonist’s journey really is that strong.
I read this as a review copy provided by the publisher (ebook only). I liked it from the first page. Yes, the protagonist is not the most likeable guy in the beginning…but that is a critical element to the plot as it unfolds. And there is enough sarcasm (which I truly enjoy) in what he says and thinks to make the reading enjoyable no matter how much you dislike the guy.
It turns out that his dislike of others creates problems for him as a doctor. It’s kind of like that black humor police officers and emergency workers develop because they have to. With a darker twist, yes, and one that is worth reading deeply to understand his view.
The story provides plenty of character development before the tragic event his daughter suffers, all with enough hints at the events to come to keep you moving forward in the narrative. When it finally happens, there is a chaotic reaction on his part and by the people around him. The other characters have also been ramping up the chaos before the event even happens, so when it strikes, the impact is all the more severe.
The true payoff for readers comes when the protagonist responds…in various ways…to the event. He and his wife take one track to help the daughter while the father works on his own in different ways to find justice. In the end, he doesn’t truly find justice but he does create his own. The justice he creates makes peace for himself, his family, and others.
This is a well-drawn portrait of a father-daughter relationship. It’s a story for today in so many ways. For the reader who understands that not all characters are likeable, Summer House provides a rich payoff.
5 stars!
Want more fiction that tackles violence against women? Try He Drinks Poison.

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