Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Summer House with Swimming Pool

I loved Herman Koch's novel The Dinner so I couldn't wait to read this book. His characters are so despicable. There wasn't a single one in The Dinner that was redeemable. This was true again in Summer House With Swimming Pool. I'm starting to wonder what goes through the mind of this author!

If you read this book, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Koch has little respect for women. His characters view them as nothing more than sex objects, including the two young girls in the novel who are 11 and 13-years-old. Koch pushes it to a limit that sent alarm bells ringing through my mind. The girls pose for a couple of boys as they stand on a diving board and are squirted with hoses as part of a "Miss Wet T-shirt" contest. The girls' father finds it amusing. I found it disturbing.

What kind of father is okay with boys making his daughters into sex objects at that (or any) age? One of the boys gets angry at the younger girl and calls her a "slimy bitch." Again - what kind of father allows a boy to call his 11-year-old daughter that in front of him?

All of the male characters in the novel are atrociously misogynistic. I couldn't stand any of them. I knew the book would take twists and turns that rattle the rational mind, but didn't expect some of the things that came up. Again, it made me wonder what in the world goes through Herman Koch's mind? That being said, I can't wait for his next book to be translated into English. So what does that say about my own psyche?

HERMAN KOCH is the author of eight novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in twenty-five countries, and was an international bestseller. He currently lives in Amsterdam.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding

I can't decide how I feel about this book. It was initially off-putting as author Kristin Newman immediately jumped into her sexual escapades around the globe. It reminded me of twentysomethings who think it's cool to brag about "that time I was so wasted," or "I was so drunk," etc. But instead, it was Kristin boasting about all the men she slept with in various foreign countries. I don't consider myself that prudish, but there were times when it seemed like she was trading sex for a place to stay or a ride when she needed one.

But her writing won me over and soon I was caught up in the adventures and locales she described. As a writer for several sitcoms, she had the time and the money to spend on periods of extended travel and her stories were entertaining and funny. It was easy to see how she made a living entertaining people with humor.

Then I'd teeter back to not liking her. Maybe it was jealousy in part because I'm more aligned with the "people who were breeding" in my twenties and early thirties while she was globe-trekking. (Is it my imagination or is her book title purposely offensive?) I can admit that a part of me wishes I'd been as wild, carefree and uninhibited as she was. Then I remember who I am, and that I'm not an extrovert who gloms onto strangers and takes them up on their offers to fly halfway around the world to stay at their place. That's just not me.

But I loved the adventures and the travel descriptions. So I teetered back to liking the book again.

Overall, I'd have to say I liked the book. It kept me reading and made me drool with envy. Unfortunately, Kristin's sexual romps were distracting in what was otherwise a great travel memoir.

Decide for yourself. You can read the opening chapter here:

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.