Why did I read it: The book looked scary and unusual and familiar all at the same time. I figured it would make for a refreshing change in one way or another.
The village of Hemmersmoor is a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition: There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age—in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village’s darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, evocative of Stephen King’s classic short story “Children of the Corn” and infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm.
Review: Exactly the creepy, fascinating, and dark book I’d been craving as well as a look at a town that I can only hope is entirely non-existent. I can definitely see the Shirley Jackson comparisons what with the ugly truths and horrible ways in which people deal with, talk to, kill, and hurt one another. Several sections reminded me of Ray Bradbury and Angela Carter too. I can also see the Stephen King comparisions although I would say Kiesbye seems to be more careful with his words. There is a sharp, almost simple directness about Hemmersmoor and its strange inhabitants. In many ways, the novel read like the dangerous doppelgänger of a wholesome children’s book, which I can’t help but think was entirely intentional.
The supernatural atmosphere of Hemmersmoor and the ways in which all of its people treat one another was truly alarming and spooky. I appreciated Kiesbye not going the boring, predictable route of children are inherently evil and/or childhood can be a dark, unpleasant experience that only those involved can ever truly understand. Instead his book shows all kinds of people behaving in bad, dark ways whether it is only in childhood or whether the habit continues long into adulthood. By the end of the book, the blame for various unforgivable actions can be placed at the doorstep of virtually every person living in this particular village. I also loved that the bad things that happen don’t always result in justice and that there isn’t always a favorable outcome for victims.
The scariest aspect of the book, however, reminds me in many ways of one of my favorite H. P. Lovecraft passages (from “The Call of Cthulhu”): “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” Granted Kiesbye’s protagonists aren’t battling or necessarily ignoring anything as dire as an Elder God, but in many ways it is even more chilling to realize that the memory of sinister actions and malicious wrong-doings can fade away from the minds of most people, even those directly involved. That even the darkest pasts and secrets won’t always haunt people or ever be shared. That the worst acts might one day only be remembered as idle gossip or old wives’ tales. That only the reader and certain characters will ever know –or at least remember– the ghastly goings-on in Hemmersmoor.
In conclusion, a perfectly frightening and chilling read. Only one section of the book really didn’t work for me, and I’m still not sure what it amounted to because I’m still not entirely sure what I was meant to get out of it. Over all though, I was throughily engrossed and captivated by this book. That said, Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone is certainly not for those looking for any leve of positive insight in regards to small town life, relationships, friendships, or people in general. I would advise against picking this book up if you’re hoping for a happy or even some sort of redemptive ending. It is also not necessarily for those looking for good night’s sleep, but if you enjoy horror, I’d highly suggest checking it out.
How I would rate it: 4.5 out of 5 stars.