Summer House with Swimming Pool
I’m not sure this has ever happened to me.
There have been times when an author has left a story open-ended, and the reader is allowed to argue (during a book club, let’s say) the ending. More often, there is a clearly defined ending, and people are left only to argue whether or not they think the ending fit with the story. But this is the first time when there has been a clear ending to a book; an ending that everyone else seems to get… and I closed the book having no clue what happened.
I mean, literally, no clue.
So in asking about this book, I will need to talk about the ending of this book. Stop reading if you plan on reading Herman Koch’s Summer House with Swimming Pool.
I mean it, stop.
I’m even putting a little space here between the fact that there will be spoilers and the spoilers themselves so you can click off the screen.
Good. Everyone else still here has either read the book or simply doesn’t care that the ENTIRE END OF THE BOOK WILL BE RUINED.
I warned you.
So the story ends with Ralph dead due to Marc’s actions. We’re told Marc performs the botched biopsy in order to kill Ralph because he suspects him as the rapist. Ralph confesses to Marc on his deathbed the stuff about the repairman and how Julia faked the rape. Then we have the bizarre Stanley and the fact that Marc would fly his daughter out there for the photos. And then we have the fact that Marc is looking at his little girl as a woman, and all of his talk about child molesters.
Was Ralph telling the truth about the repairman or did he make up that story because he was the rapist? Or because Alex was the rapist?
Or is this straightforward: the repairman was the rapist?
Or is Stanley the rapist and Ralph knew so he gave Marc that red herring?
Or is Marc the rapist, and the whole book has been a red herring? Because his behaviour, especially not pursing the rapist in the moment, felt odd to me.
I closed the book completely unclear on what the author wanted me to think, which is — perhaps — a problem with the story. This book didn’t feel open-ended. It feels as if one of those options above is the one the author wants us to believe by the last page. The problem is that I’m not sure which one.
Did I like the book? Yes… I think? Enough that I got another one of his books out of the library before I finished this one. But… disturbed me too? What did everyone else think of it?