Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Herman Koch's Summer House with a Swimming Pool

If you loved Koch's last novel The Dinner you're going to be real disappointed in his new one I'm afraid.

It lacks all the elements that made The Dinner so superb. There's no tension or subtlety, no suggestiveness or nuance, no sureness of touch. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was an early manuscript whipped into some sort of shape for publication to capitalise on the huge success of The Dinner.

There is a death and a rape, but we know the killer very early on and the sex was consensual if it happened at all. 

It has the same basic theme as The Dinner. The evil lies in the ordinary man - a teacher in The Dinner, a GP here - rather than the larger than life, vulgar and frequently sinning, actor on the public stage.

But there are far too many red herrings and meaningless characters in this one, meaning the plot meanders all over the place and struggles to retain the reader's interest. It certainly didn't retain mine.

Sure, there are some nice elements. The depiction of the everyday life and times of an experienced doctor is very well done. Koch captures the disillusion and 'seen it all before' cynicism exceptionally well, and spins some delightful comedy out of it. You'll never look at your GP the same again. He also has an uncanny ability to bring the dynamics of marriage and family relationships to life in all their glory and horror. There's no sentimentality here.

In essence though the book is a major disappointment. Three stars out of five.

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