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Months ago I finished this novel, attempted to review, but my fingers hovered over the keyboard and my head felt scrambled -- the condition is called being *dumbstruck.* As a reviewer wrote, Summer House is "uncommon" and if you read Koch's previous novel, The Dinner, you know the author has a blunt-force style that is anything but common. He is out of the box, out of bounds, and you need to brace yourself for a style that might leave you a little dumbstruck. It's not that he is offensive -- he is completely unique and captures his characters in sticky icky situations, at the edge of civility, then pushes it to places we hope we are incapable of falling to ourselves.
Subject matter is borderline, of course, it's Koch, and if just hearing *lecherous older men and barely-into-their-teens young girls* already has you grimacing -- not your book because that is just the beginning. (I had to keep in mind that nude sunbathing and swimming is de rigueur in some cultures.) Throw in lots of alcohol, a doctor that is repulsed by the human body, adultery, rape, and nude frolicking on the beach... it's gritty and uncomfortable (like getting sand in places usually covered by your bathing suit). And as if it isn't already prickly enough, there are plenty of moments where you shouldn't be laughing, but you are...that watching someone stumble and ride down the stairs laugh. Koch connects with a part of us that some of us don't want to know is there, and that is what is the most discomforting.
Koch is a good writer and does what he sets out to do well. He keeps you engaged even when it's uncomfortable -- but so does an electric fence. I occasionally like a book where I am expected to boo and hiss the bad guys -- it's all good fun. But, I think Summer House crossed MY line by featuring too many taboos. In the end (and what about that end??-huh?) I recognize the author's uniqueness and talent, but Summer House "enriched me not" and left me feeling almost guilty, "poor indeed." If you think you have the mental fortitude, you don't have bouts of depression triggered by icky situations, you love to hate the characters and dark deeds, don't mind sand in cracks...this may be your book.
62 of 68 people found this review helpful
I ADORED “The Dinner” I am in love with the writing style so when I saw that there was another English language book by the same author I bought it right away without reading the synopsis.
This book really made an impression, but perhaps not for the right reasons! The plot was interesting, I liked the story, but his I think his descriptive writing style is a little too good – it’s so shocking and jarring!
There is so much distain and revulsion and negative energy in the main character that it’s sometimes hard to read! He makes you feel dirty and off-center; he’s so unlikable and his thoughts are so disturbing. His thinking is so sick and detestable it makes you wonder why you’re still reading, yet you do because you’ve never read anything like it before and you’re genuinely curious to know where it will lead. A little like watching a train wreck.
Perhaps because this was an audio-book I was extra disquieted because I was actually hearing someone vocalize the thoughts – actually saying the words; I think that had a bigger impact.
Personally, I was let down by the ending but the ride was so “different” that I didn’t mind. I’d love to read another book by the same author, but honestly I hope it won’t be as alarming!
42 of 46 people found this review helpful