Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch: Book Review

FictionSummer House with Swimming Pool, Herman Koch, fiction
Released June, 2014
402 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by publisher via NetGalley

Plot Summary 

When Dr. Marc Schlosser and his family decide to join famous stage actor Ralph Meier at his family’s vacation rental and Meier subsequently winds up dead, Marc’s life and career take some unexpected turns.

My Thoughts

Summer House with Swimming Pool was my first foray into Herman Koch (no, I haven’t yet read The Dinner). I’d heard his style was a bit unorthodox and that liking him was a matter of taste. Summer House with Swimming Pool was hit or miss for me – I couldn’t decide if Koch showed occasional bizarreness amid a sea of brilliance or vice versa…flashes of brilliance amid a sea of bizarreness. I’m leaning towards the latter.

So, I’m dividing this review into two sections:

Koch’s Flashes of Brilliance
Dr. Marc Schlosser’s character gives realistic and unapologetic insight into the medical profession. His views are of the “here’s how it really is, but we’ll never actually tell patients this” variety. Who knows if the quote below is true or not, but it actually kind of makes sense to me. And, it certainly appears to be one of those things that could be “understood” in the medical profession, but rarely voiced aloud.

A general practitioner’s task is simple. He doesn’t have to heal people, he only has to make sure they don’t sidestep him and make it to the specialists and the hospitals. […] It’s simple arithmetic. If we family doctors were to let through everyone with an itch, a spot, or a cough to a specialist or a hospital, the system would collapse entirely. Someone did the arithmetic on that once. […] If every general practitioner referred more than one-third of his patients for further care from a specialist, the system would begin to creak and buckle within two days. Within a week, it would collapse.

This was a book where I found myself highlighting like crazy! I found Marc’s candidness refreshing, although I’m sure it will offend some people and it will definitely make you look twice at your doctor during your next visit! Now, he takes this way too far as you’ll see in the bizarreness section…

I also ended up really liking the ending. It made me look at Marc in a different light and gave the story a bit more realism.

Koch’s Bizarreness
Between all my highlighting, I found myself zoning out at times. In the middle of the story, Koch would ramble off on inexplicable tangents, and they were sometimes completely bizarre, grotesque, and graphic. And, I don’t mean graphic in a sexual way, I mean it in a flat out gross way. He’s often describing what he’s thinking about as he’s examining a patient, making his thoughts even harder to stomach! For example, he imagines his obese patient having sex with her husband. And, let me assure you, Marc’s description is not like a movie script…it’s downright hard to read. He also describes playing “would you do it with that one?” in AUTOPSY class in medical school…that’s right, he goes there!

It’s almost like he takes his strength (saying things that many people probably think, but don’t say) way too far by saying things that probably never occur to most regular people! Things that just make me think “ugh…”. 

Though there was too much bizarreness for me to recommend Summer House with Swimming Pool, I am still planning to read The Dinner. I’ve heard Koch’s distinctive style (minus the grotesque, hopefully!) is on much better display in that book.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I haven’t read this one yet (mostly because I’ve heard so many mixed things!), but I did love The Dinner. Based on what you’ve written, I think you’d really dig it, too. There’s nothing really gross in that book, but those same great insights are there. It seems like many people who read The Dinner first were slightly underwhelmed by this one – you might be lucky and get to go the other way around!

    Posted 7.7.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I’m definitely still planning on reading The Dinner…and have heard the same things about that you mentioned. Hopefully, I’ll get to it this year! Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted 7.7.14 Reply
  2. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea wrote:

    I smiled reading your review as I made me flash back to parts I enjoyed most about this one. I loved this as well as the Dinner, but then I may have a sicker sense of humor than most readers:)

    Posted 7.7.14 Reply
  3. I seem to be languishing on the library hold list, but do plan to read this one. Reviews are all over the place! I devoured The Dinner in two days (very unusual for me), so will be curious to see how I feel about Summer House.

    Posted 7.7.14 Reply
  4. Oh wow, I can see how you went back and forth on this. I haven’t tried this author and while I don’t think this one is for me..I do want to try this author. Great review 🙂

    Posted 7.7.14 Reply
  5. Melissa W. wrote:

    I actually enjoyed the book and felt that unlike The Dinner, which I felt was a bit confusing and dull at times, the story was well done. I realize that the title is a bit of a misnomer, but I felt that the story that Koch wrote was much better than his previous book.

    Posted 7.7.14 Reply
  6. Trish wrote:

    You’re not the first person to note that this one was just way too much. I am curious about The Dinner but it seems even that one has readers divided.

    Posted 7.7.14 Reply
  7. I really liked this Summer House With Swimming Pool, but I definitely liked The Dinner more. If you liked it for the insight, I think you’ll enjoy The Dinner much more too, especially since it’s much less gross. Great review though!

    Posted 7.9.14 Reply

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive all new blog posts in one weekly email. Plus, news of special updates and offers!

You have Successfully Subscribed!