ETA: It’s been brought to my attention that Koch is Dutch and not Norwegian. Sorry about that.
I’m conflicted. Mainly because I don’t know to whom I should give half of the credit. Herman Koch is a Norwegian author who seems incapable of telling a poorly-told tale. But I have no idea how good of a writer he is. You see, Koch doesn’t write in English. His novels are translated by a guy named Sam Garrett. I know things get lost or changed in translation. This is fact. There are words in English that simply do not exist in other languages and vice versa. But it should be known that, while I do not know who to congratulate, this book read exquisitely well, as did my first Koch read, The Dinner. And guess what? Sam translated that one too. Who gets the credit for this butter-smooth prose? Unless I learn Norwegian, I’ll never know.
What I do know is, Summer House with Swimming Pool is an amazingly well-told story about people who’re terrible at being human. Several tough subjects are broached: infidelity, euthanasia, age of consent, and capital punishment for child molesters (which I agree with, no bones about it; I believe a person who forces themselves on a child shouldn’t share the air I breathe, even moreso than a murderer because a pedophile’s victims continue to suffer long after the act, whereas a murderer’s victim is dead and gone.)
The plot is wonderfully twisty, but the twists and turns are only half the entertainment value to be had. The exemplary character writing floored me, even moreso than with The Dinner. At first, Summer House with Swimming Pool was okay. I found it bit unfocused and confusing, but I needn’t have worried. All was brought to light by the end. And then it jumped from okay to good… from good to great… from great to amazing. In the simplest language, it kept getting better and better. That cannot be said for many novels. But do not get me wrong. The book didn’t start badly and get better. It maintained upward momentum throughout. I will be talking about this novel for some time.
A word of warning to those of you who believe this to be light summer reading, as suggested by the cutesy blue-and-yellow cover. This book can be at times disturbing. There is a scene involving a needle and an eyeball. I will say no more. If you believe that such things should never come in contact with each other and that having them do so would ruin your reading experience, please pass up this novel. If you’re like me and you enjoy disturbing content, hop aboard. We’ll be making stops at least every fifty pages.
In summation: Herman Koch is now on my Must-Buy list. He has a new novel coming in 2016 and I am now eagerly awaiting it. I might have to take up Norwegian so I can read his earlier books, or, you know, Crown Publishing can get the lead out of their asses and publish the rest of this dude’s back catalog. Love ya for it.
Final Judgment: Will probably end up on my Top Five of 2015 list.
I received this book from http://www.bloggingforbooks.org/ for this review. They make me say that because of the FTC and all that jazz. It didn’t sway my final judgment. If you have a problem with that, maybe seek counseling and stop worrying about what other people do.