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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 fac 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.


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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 fac 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.

30 review for Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    THIS IS EVERYTHING I WANTED WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE TO BE!!!!!!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    karen

    this book was an easy near-five stars for me. it opens with a funeral scene in rural germany - three men and a woman attend the burial of a woman; a childhood friend. there is an awkward conversation, sprinkled with resentment and innuendo. at the close of the prologue, the woman triumphantly pisses on the grave. everyone's got grudges... what follows is a series of short stories, alternating between the perspectives of all five characters, as they dispassionately recount the horrific (to the reade this book was an easy near-five stars for me. it opens with a funeral scene in rural germany - three men and a woman attend the burial of a woman; a childhood friend. there is an awkward conversation, sprinkled with resentment and innuendo. at the close of the prologue, the woman triumphantly pisses on the grave. everyone's got grudges... what follows is a series of short stories, alternating between the perspectives of all five characters, as they dispassionately recount the horrific (to the reader) childhood experiences occurring in their deliberately insular village of hemmersmoor. they are all told in first-person past-tense, so it is unclear whether they are remembrancing things past as adults, or narrating the stories as children, but i prefer to think that they are told in the voice of a child, self-reflecting; musing on things just-past with only themselves as audience. kids are scary. you know this, right? and this village helps to foster the scary. small villages, cut off from the rest of the world make their own rules. here, "murder" is just another word for "justice," and superstition, tradition, folklore, and magic have the power to shape destinies. there will be incest, arson, facial scarring,character assassination, cannibalism, and soul-stealing. just to begin with. the stories are narrated in a very straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. this is german horror, after all. it is quietly chilling, rather than going for grand gestures. there is casual violence undercutting these stories without any real emotional response. awful things happen, and life goes on. there is an emphasis upon the erasure of the past: Nobody shed a tear for the youths, and what had happened to the people who had lived in the camp before them, nobody was interested in either. Despite the photo in my living room, despite the vans that had delivered groceries to this other village on a daily basis, and despite the railroad track that led right through it, nobody in Hemmersmoor could say who the people in the camp had been. Nobody remembered the ones who had lived there, slept in the barracks, and died. There had never been such people. which is probably the scariest thing of all. atrocities should leave emotional scars, but here, their fading is taken for granted, life goes on, murders become barstool anecdotes, and while individuals remember, and will eventually piss on your grave,the community-at-large will have all but forgotten, or consigned your suffering to legend. this book comes highly recommended from me. a very under-the-skin kind of book that has a true shirley jackson feel, and not just that knee-jerk name-drop that comes when people want to describe literary horror. christian's chapters are particularly good - just complete bland teenage sociopathy. brrrrrr and i am a little disappointed that i have an advanced readers' copy from ALA. reading the other reviews of this on here, it seems the published book has a feature mine lacks, one which i am going to confirm at work today. watch this space. okay, ready??? oh, it's just a regular book doo dee doo until you hold it under the light... can you see that?? so cool. i love details. come to my blog!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    Dark, disturbing, creepy, fabulous! The entire cast of characters are all seriously, equally flawed. And, I think the ending is open to interpretation by every reader, which adds another cool element to this book. Enjoy!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The tiny village of Hemmersmoor is full of secrets, and as the children grow up and tell their stories -- these secrets are revealed, peeled away like layers of an onion, to slowly and quietly expose the dark heart of this poisoned community. The story is beautifully written. Its elegant, quietly detailed writing flows as easily as fresh blood, and I flew through it. That said, “Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone” left a bad taste in my mouth. Personally, when I read horror, I want to The tiny village of Hemmersmoor is full of secrets, and as the children grow up and tell their stories -- these secrets are revealed, peeled away like layers of an onion, to slowly and quietly expose the dark heart of this poisoned community. The story is beautifully written. Its elegant, quietly detailed writing flows as easily as fresh blood, and I flew through it. That said, “Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone” left a bad taste in my mouth. Personally, when I read horror, I want to be scared, even shocked at times, but I also want at least one character that I can sympathize with, and this book lacked that across the board. There is no sense that the atrocities in this book meant anything. There is no summation, no climax. Instead, at one point, they just stop. It's not scary...it's just sad.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Creepy and unsettling, Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone is about a village of the damned, the mouth to Hell, located in what was West Germany after World War 2. Hemmersmoor is the town and its young people are as depraved as their parents and ancestors. No one ever prospers here. Incest, rape, child murder, the town embraces it all. Nausea is the prominent feeling I had as I read, so I couldn't recommend this unless you have a strong stomach. The author has power and the character o Creepy and unsettling, Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone is about a village of the damned, the mouth to Hell, located in what was West Germany after World War 2. Hemmersmoor is the town and its young people are as depraved as their parents and ancestors. No one ever prospers here. Incest, rape, child murder, the town embraces it all. Nausea is the prominent feeling I had as I read, so I couldn't recommend this unless you have a strong stomach. The author has power and the character of the boy Christian is the epitome of a psychopathic monster. I was going to give it 2 stars, but has to nudge it up because he included my favorite quote from my favorite story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches": It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside . . . Look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.

  6. 5 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE is probably not a book for everyone, but I found it to be fascinating. While this book has elements of horror, it's more rooted in the evil we perpetuate against each other. A central theme here is the cruelty and indifference practiced by children, family members, and neighbors. All of this occurring in the oddly isolated German village of Hemmersmooor, a place where atrocities and secrets go hand-in-hand. The real monsters of the town are the peopl YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE is probably not a book for everyone, but I found it to be fascinating. While this book has elements of horror, it's more rooted in the evil we perpetuate against each other. A central theme here is the cruelty and indifference practiced by children, family members, and neighbors. All of this occurring in the oddly isolated German village of Hemmersmooor, a place where atrocities and secrets go hand-in-hand. The real monsters of the town are the people, but I also love how Kiesbye sprinkles in his wonderful magic, with rumors of witches and ghosts appearing from time to time in various locations in and around the village. Another intriguing aspect of this novel is the sort of matter-of-fact narrative of murders and deaths, which feels very European in the telling. YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE reads like a Grimm's fairy tale brimming with some uncensored madness. In August I read a book called The Bone Mother, which really was very similar to this book, in regard to the European stylings of story telling, myth, horror, and history. At any rate, I greatly enjoyed this offering from Stefan Kiesbye.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Hey, quick, who am I? "Four stars! Four stars! Hey, this book: four stars! That book: four stars! A very merry four stars to me! To who? To you! Last Sunday's Walking Dead episode? The dessert menu at my apartment on Thanksgiving? This cup of coffee in front of me? Four stars, four stars, four stars!" Yeah, we've all lamented the star situation before and maybe wish we'd never started using them to begin with, but I must applaud something about this really likeable book: Guess what? I "really lik Hey, quick, who am I? "Four stars! Four stars! Hey, this book: four stars! That book: four stars! A very merry four stars to me! To who? To you! Last Sunday's Walking Dead episode? The dessert menu at my apartment on Thanksgiving? This cup of coffee in front of me? Four stars, four stars, four stars!" Yeah, we've all lamented the star situation before and maybe wish we'd never started using them to begin with, but I must applaud something about this really likeable book: Guess what? I "really liked it." I can't even begin to argue with that statement, and it is actually the perfect description of my feelings in as few words as possible. This is more four-y than most fours in its completely immaculate four-star-ness, to me. All of this is an elaborate attempt to regain a bit of my star-rating authority after my recent four-star-granting bender, assuming said authority ever existed to begin with. (It didn't.) No matter where you are on this or any star-related subject, please let me assure you that I still "really like" you. Four stars! This is one of those spooky-ooky f'd up books that I would feel bad for reading--ya know, like I'm somehow becoming one of those obese American housewives who ignores her asshole children to drift off into her unfathomably perverse interior world of marrying death-row inmates and banging werewolves and vampires and whatever such blood-thirsty gobbledygook she comes up with--if the writing wasn't so purdy and the authorial voice so confident. You know, creepy, taboo-tumbling, physical/sexual violence-drenched books which crawl inside the heads of psychotic people as they pretend to be all rational and talk about their nonexistant feelings and stuff. Also, there's some maybe-ghosts, maybe the Devil, etc. An isolationist German town's sociopathic citizenry all weave in and out of each others lives in consistently terrible ways. And it is spooky. There are a gazillion variations on campfire stories here, but told from several different yet equally cold, dry first-person perspectives. Basically, this book is sort of like what would happen if you stitched together Soren Narnia's knifepoint tales into one larger narrative framework. Oh, and it is good. Have I mentioned that I "really liked it?" I did. Hell, I would even read an actually long book by this guy! I simply cannot wait for the awesome movie version that Hollywood will sadly never make. Oh, one more thing: this book did not remind me of the X-Files. Umm, at all. P.S. Thanks for the rec, karen! I know I had already voted for that review, but gr stolededed it! Is a conspiracy! Buaaaah!

  8. 5 out of 5

    brian

    if one of the ironies of the human condition is that we race through childhood unaware only to spend a lifetime trying to get it all back, the avid reader enjoys a parallel irony in that we burrow deeper and deeper into analysis and critical thinking only, really, to try and more fully recapture the childlike sense of being lost in a story. (i'm generalizing, but go with me on this…) impossible to shut down the critical mechanism, though: you can't unring a bell. & once you ring it, never again if one of the ironies of the human condition is that we race through childhood unaware only to spend a lifetime trying to get it all back, the avid reader enjoys a parallel irony in that we burrow deeper and deeper into analysis and critical thinking only, really, to try and more fully recapture the childlike sense of being lost in a story. (i'm generalizing, but go with me on this…) impossible to shut down the critical mechanism, though: you can't unring a bell. & once you ring it, never again do words register as visceral, physical, wholly present things: you hit a clunky passage, an unforgivable trope, or some such other roadbump… the illusion's gone. so, it's great to find those books that feel as pure storytelling, that manage to hoodwink & goose the reader, to slightly mute that damn ringing. your house is on fire, your children all gone does a great job of it. haunting, elegiac stories set in the same small german town all full of creepy kids, rape games, and loads and loads of thanos & eros... highly recommended to y'all who dig campfire tales, stories which may or may not be 'ghost' stories, and a daily whiff of the ineffable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Even though this takes place in Germany I'm sticking it my 'true-grit' (aka fucked up white trash) shelf. I guess America doesn't have a monopoly on twisted Appalachia type folks, although there is an element of old-world charm here that is generally missing from my dentally impaired and radially excelled countrymen and women. The book opens in the modern day. A guy returns to his hometown after years away to find it being overrun by yuppie types, but with some of his old friends still making up Even though this takes place in Germany I'm sticking it my 'true-grit' (aka fucked up white trash) shelf. I guess America doesn't have a monopoly on twisted Appalachia type folks, although there is an element of old-world charm here that is generally missing from my dentally impaired and radially excelled countrymen and women. The book opens in the modern day. A guy returns to his hometown after years away to find it being overrun by yuppie types, but with some of his old friends still making up part of the local color. A girl he knew growing up has died and he and three of his friends are the only people who go to her funeral. The funeral ends, like any good funeral should, with one of the mourners lifting up her dress, showing everyone she isn't wearing any knickers and pissing on the grave. There is then a minor physical altercation. You'd almost think this was taking place in Ireland instead of Germany with these kinds of goings-ons. The book then jumps back forty years or so to give a series of chapters that each tell a different story about the town and children growing up there. The chapters are told from the point of view of the different kids who would be taking part in this funeral, either as the mourners or as the stiff. After the first couple of chapters you start to catch on to the idea that none of these stories are going to end well. Not that the kids are going to come to a bad end necessarily, but that something fucked up is going to happen to someone in each of the chapters. The book straddles the line of being super-natural, but you never really know, and I think you get the feeling that there is nothing super-natural going on except that some backward ignorant types take some refuge in believing in ghosts and curses and things like that instead of facing up to the fact that the whole town is a bunch of borderline psychopaths. Just look at the matter of fact way that the Thanksgiving contest is told in one of the first chapters and the almost flippant way it's mentioned in some later stories. The book is blurbed with nods to Shirley Jackson (which is a code word for "The Lottery", which is really the only Shirley Jackson story that anyone ever means when they say Shirley Jackson) and Stephen King's "Children of the Corn". The first allusion has some validity. The second is nonsense, but it goes well with the creepy kid on the cover of the book. These aren't stories of weird kids holding a town captive with the terroristic antics of scary pre-pubescents, it's a story of a fucked up town, just told from the perspective of a group of kids. If you had to relate this novel to a Stephen King work, "The Body" would probably be a better one, but without any of the heart-felt nostalgia (or maybe that is just in the movie, I've only read the story once, but seen the movie many times so my memory isn't necessarily good here). Grumbling about the blurbs though is just about the only thing I can complain about for this book. For a two-hundred page book there is a high density of fucked up things going on, but it never felt like I was being hit over the head with shocking scenes over and over again, but now that I'm thinking of all the things that this book had in it I'm fairly amazed it was all able to fit into a satisfying short novel. Good stuff.

  10. 5 out of 5

    ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪SomeBunny Reads (Phoenix)•*¨*•♫♪

    I was drawn to this book by its title - you can't deny it's catchy - and the creepy cover. The book is creepy indeed: a collection of stories narrated by different characters who live in a small German village and are both victims and perpetrators of acts of violence. I can't say I enjoyed this book; I mean, some stories were entertaining, but the overall feeling I had reading it was "pointless violence" and lack of realism. You know, the kind of situation in which you constantly ask yourself qu I was drawn to this book by its title - you can't deny it's catchy - and the creepy cover. The book is creepy indeed: a collection of stories narrated by different characters who live in a small German village and are both victims and perpetrators of acts of violence. I can't say I enjoyed this book; I mean, some stories were entertaining, but the overall feeling I had reading it was "pointless violence" and lack of realism. You know, the kind of situation in which you constantly ask yourself questions like: "yes, but why", or "how comes no one ever found out?" or "why is there literally no police in this town". I didn't hate it, but I guess I expected a little bit more; a little more Lovecraft maybe, a little more Gothic. Anyway, as I said, it felt pointless. I'm sure many people would disagree though, so if you really like this kind of story, you should definitely give it a try.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenn(ifer)

    Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant in the role of Freddie Quell in the motion picture 'The Master.' I'm not recommending the film or saying I liked it in any way, shape or form, but I can appreciate great acting when I see it. Aside from Phoenix, I thought the film was lacking -- it had no arc -- it was disturbing and uncomfortable in the beginning, middle and end, but otherwise didn't really go anywhere. I had a similar experience with this freaky little novel. There was this sort of pervasive Creep Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant in the role of Freddie Quell in the motion picture 'The Master.' I'm not recommending the film or saying I liked it in any way, shape or form, but I can appreciate great acting when I see it. Aside from Phoenix, I thought the film was lacking -- it had no arc -- it was disturbing and uncomfortable in the beginning, middle and end, but otherwise didn't really go anywhere. I had a similar experience with this freaky little novel. There was this sort of pervasive Creepiness from beginning to end, but the difference here is I actually liked this novel. Really liked it. It shows the dark side of humanity in a very matter-of-fact sort of way, so that while the actions of some of the characters are horrendous, terrifying even, they don't really come as that much of a surprise. Sort of like watching the 6 o'clock news in Philadelphia. "Young boy kills sister in her sleep" - meh, what else you got? "Boy drowns during a dare" - tell me something I haven't heard before. If you are the type of person who is titillated by social deviants and psychological thrillers, you will surely enjoy this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bark

    Your House is On Fire, Your Children All Gone caught my eye with its title and fittingly creepy cover. But often a cover deceives me. This one delivers on the creep factor and is a quietly dark, infinitely disturbing book. Each chapter is told by one of five friends as they’re coming of age in an isolated, superstitious small town, in each chapter they either do something horribly disturbing or find out an equally disturbing secret about an adult in their life. Each story builds on the dread and Your House is On Fire, Your Children All Gone caught my eye with its title and fittingly creepy cover. But often a cover deceives me. This one delivers on the creep factor and is a quietly dark, infinitely disturbing book. Each chapter is told by one of five friends as they’re coming of age in an isolated, superstitious small town, in each chapter they either do something horribly disturbing or find out an equally disturbing secret about an adult in their life. Each story builds on the dread and horror of the previous tale. I had to read the book in dribs and drabs due to real life and would recommend reading it cover to cover if your short-term memory is non-existent, like mine. I found myself getting a little mixed up about who did what horrible thing because well . . . It’s not a big deal, really, because all of these kids and people are pretty awful, in the most deliciously devious readable way, of course. A few reviews have said this book is slow and boring and I’m the first one to admit a book is boring me to death (most do) but I didn’t find that to be the case with this one once I got past the beginning. True, the horror is more of the quiet type, but that doesn’t dull its effect at all. Horrible things are done and told in such a dispassionate way that it all seems normal and you are left to dwell on that. See more horror reviews at Horror After Dark

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is compared to Stephen King's "Children of the Corn," but I cannot see any relation. This story isn't creepy, and if supernatural things are happening, I missed them completely. It's not just the children in this village in Germany that do bad things - it's everyone. Adults to children, children to children, children to adults, adults to babies, and adults to adults. It's just people doing crappy things to each other, but as the reader, I didn't even care. I felt zero connection with the ch This is compared to Stephen King's "Children of the Corn," but I cannot see any relation. This story isn't creepy, and if supernatural things are happening, I missed them completely. It's not just the children in this village in Germany that do bad things - it's everyone. Adults to children, children to children, children to adults, adults to babies, and adults to adults. It's just people doing crappy things to each other, but as the reader, I didn't even care. I felt zero connection with the characters, and the terrible things are told so matter-of-factly, I just moved on without contemplation. Not one person in the village seemed to have the ability to feel remorse either. Alex, for example. Oh, I basically killed my friend when we were kids but what do you expect? I was a kid, get over it. So what if he was your brother? Now, I'm just going to continuously rape you for as long as I can and neither one of us will ever tell anyone. No biggie. I don't know, maybe I missed the "greater message," but I didn't care for it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    It begins with some old, old friends reuniting for the funeral of a childhood pal. Then one of them literally SPITS (and worse!) on the grave! What gives? They were the best of friends when they were kids. Then, we meet them as kids, growing up in a nasty, gossipy village that is ruled by superstition and fear. There are plenty of dark secrets to be kept and shared. Adults are mean to other adults and to children. Children, in turn, are cruel to EVERYONE. This is an unpleasant, yet mesmerizing, r It begins with some old, old friends reuniting for the funeral of a childhood pal. Then one of them literally SPITS (and worse!) on the grave! What gives? They were the best of friends when they were kids. Then, we meet them as kids, growing up in a nasty, gossipy village that is ruled by superstition and fear. There are plenty of dark secrets to be kept and shared. Adults are mean to other adults and to children. Children, in turn, are cruel to EVERYONE. This is an unpleasant, yet mesmerizing, read. There's very little here that is supernatural, but creepiness just permeates this book. You'd think that at my age, I'd no longer be amazed by tales of the twisted things we humans do to one another, but this book surprised me. Fairy tales can come true, but few of them ever end with "they lived happily ever after."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I picked this up for the RIP VI Challenge , thinking it would be a creepy, chilling read for this time of year. It was that...actually, it was more than that -- I found it quite disturbing and it left me feeling faintly queasy. ...... For me personally, this was a disturbing read that I couldn't find much purpose in. There is no denouement, really, except for the return of the four characters, now adults, to the village, which seems to have become a nice, touristy small town in Germany. Only they I picked this up for the RIP VI Challenge , thinking it would be a creepy, chilling read for this time of year. It was that...actually, it was more than that -- I found it quite disturbing and it left me feeling faintly queasy. ...... For me personally, this was a disturbing read that I couldn't find much purpose in. There is no denouement, really, except for the return of the four characters, now adults, to the village, which seems to have become a nice, touristy small town in Germany. Only they hold its dark secrets. Also, the characters don't seem to be changed by the violence they've experienced, either as victims or perpetrators, so there is no sense to be made of all the events in the story. This was not a book I enjoyed, but on the other hand, I was spellbound by the writing enough to keep reading, hoping for some ray of light somewhere. Alas, none were to be found. full review at the Indextrious Reader

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill Khaemba

    Dark, devious and shocking... Kids are f*cking scary

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Short but strange and spooky little story, it has the old-fashioned charm of mid-20th century horror, and a plot reminiscent of Tales from the Darkside or The Twilight Zone.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    The short version: The longer version: Between the title and the creepy child on the cover of this book, I'd usually say NOPE. Because if you've been following me for a while now, you know that for as much as I enjoy horror, I steer clear of anything bad happening to kids or animals. I don't know if it's a product of age, having had a kid, or just tiring of the frequency with which the genre goes to those things for a cheap emotional reaction... or all three? Whatever. It's not what I enjoy. Also, The short version: The longer version: Between the title and the creepy child on the cover of this book, I'd usually say NOPE. Because if you've been following me for a while now, you know that for as much as I enjoy horror, I steer clear of anything bad happening to kids or animals. I don't know if it's a product of age, having had a kid, or just tiring of the frequency with which the genre goes to those things for a cheap emotional reaction... or all three? Whatever. It's not what I enjoy. Also, creepy children. But something about this drew me in. Coming of age in a village with dark secrets... oooh... why not risk some nightmares and possibly some skimming if things got too icky? The verdict: YIKES. Disturbing. In the description above, the narrative is described as "eerily dispassionate" and aside from just wanting nice endings for all the babies, that was one of the things that made it tough to enjoy. It's a style, I know, and it's done very well here, but it meant that in the parts where I wasn't supposed to be thinking, "Wow, what a psychopath," I just didn't feel connected to the characters. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself which was which as the POVs changed, because I didn't care. It gets high marks for storytelling though. I thought it was very well-crafted. Half of me was trying to look away from the page while reading, while the other half was thinking I should reread this immediately and study its construction a bit. It's definitely not for everyone though. I can see how people might love it or hate it. Or both. For me, it was both.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE, by Stefan Kiesbye, revolves around the small village of Hemmersmoor. It could be called a type of "coming of age" story involving five friends: Christian (our first male narrator), Alex Frick, Martin Schurholz, Anke (whose aspirations are to move far above the station in life she was born into), and Linde Janeke. However, that would be a tragic, over simplification of the book as a whole. The village was effectively a nation unto itself. Neighbors so YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE, by Stefan Kiesbye, revolves around the small village of Hemmersmoor. It could be called a type of "coming of age" story involving five friends: Christian (our first male narrator), Alex Frick, Martin Schurholz, Anke (whose aspirations are to move far above the station in life she was born into), and Linde Janeke. However, that would be a tragic, over simplification of the book as a whole. The village was effectively a nation unto itself. Neighbors solved their own problems, helped those in need, and similarly, punished those they saw fit to. Hemmersmoor clung to their old, traditional ways, even when the rest of the world had moved on. Superstitions and ancient beliefs were still regarded as truths. ". . . Our tongues were blackened because we ate human flesh." Children born there amused themselves by simple things such as watching for a train that occasionally passed by their small village, skating on waters--not always entirely frozen over, and playing at braiding hair, for some. They were expected to marry within their own circles, and stay on to later run their families' businesses. One home--just on the outskirts of the village--was a mansion referred to simply as "The Big House". This belonged to the von Kamphoff family, and considered "above and beyond" their own village station. The elegance and yet, simplicity, of Kiesbye's writing is in beautiful contrast to the gravity of certain situations. It was this style, more than anything else, that really hooked me into the storyline. The matter-of-fact way that the children thought of things--often things that they never even truly understood the depth of--really gave me actual chills on occasion. "In the fall of . . . death, I was seven years old. She and her five children were clubbed to death in our village square, and their remains--what was left of them--were buried. . . The cemetery was a windy affair . . . " The most truly shocking thing about the nature of this novel, for myself, was not so much what was written, but by how casually everyone in the village seemed to accept things. If ever a story delivered more by what wasn't expressly pointed out, YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE is it. Without a doubt, this is one of the most originally "voiced" novels I have read so far this year. Highly recommended!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adam Floridia

    There are many times that Karen's reviews end up burning me. They make books sound so great! Then, I buy the book, forgetting I'm more of a literary snoot who doesn't enjoy much contemporary fiction. I read the book quickly and generally find it "okay" at best. This time is different. This time her review didn't steer me wrong. I didn't love this book, but I enjoyed reading it and give it a firm 3 1/2 stars. It's a great coming-of-age tale. We get to see the five main characters deal with the nor There are many times that Karen's reviews end up burning me. They make books sound so great! Then, I buy the book, forgetting I'm more of a literary snoot who doesn't enjoy much contemporary fiction. I read the book quickly and generally find it "okay" at best. This time is different. This time her review didn't steer me wrong. I didn't love this book, but I enjoyed reading it and give it a firm 3 1/2 stars. It's a great coming-of-age tale. We get to see the five main characters deal with the normal tribulations of childhood/adolescence: the joy of town wide celebrations, the excitement of a carnival come to town, the cruel satisfaction of picking on someone younger, the alternating disgust/fascination with the other sex, the simple fun of playing soldiers or princesses, the embarrassment and anger of being shunned by the opposite sex, the frustration of dealing with parents who just don't understand. You know, the universal growing pains (no link to Kurt Cameron here) that we all must endure. That...and patricide, infanticide, sister-icide, regular old homicide, cannibalism, child abuse, incest and revenge most foul. Despite all of that, somehow it doesn't seem over the top. Sure, I'm just waiting for the grotesque or tragic (usually both) culmination to each chapter, but apart from that it really does read like an "Araby" or Black Swan Green or even Catcher in the Rye...just refracted through some kind of demented, possessed lens. The creepiest aspect of the book is its reality. A couple lines to give you a taste: -"Her cries, her begging, her shrill voice didn't help Helga one bit and stopped no one, and when the village was done with her and her children, the bodies shapeless, resembling five small and one large bag filled with rags, sticks, and stones, my father led the way to Helga's house" (19). -"Come tonight after midnight. If you do, and if you do me a favor, I will take you through hell" (23). -"It's either God's baby or the devil's, and the former hasn't happened in two thousand years" (61). -"Our game required that boys outnumber girls, but no one wanted to play the Black Miller because he couldn't take part in the raping" (95). -"Others saw cows, colts, and cats visit houses and farms after dark, and animals were clubbed to death to exorcise the beggar woman's spirit" (142). The epigraph lifted from Sherlock Holmes really is perfect for this tale of a lonely German village, ignored by the world and cruel to outsiders, steeped in superstition and haunted by its own inhabitants: "It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. Look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who no little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    TraceyL

    A collection of short stories set in a small German town. It's from the perspective of a group of kids watching (or committing) acts of violence. It started off really strong, but by the end it was just an Ok book for me. It hinted at paranormal stuff but there wasn't really anything fantastical.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Neil McCrea

    When I was six, prior to today's hypervigilant parenting, I would walk a little over a mile to my elementary school and back every day by myself. Along my route was a vacant lot full of weeds and the foundation of a home long since burned down. I regularly made up ghost stories about that lot and spent an unreasonable amount of time dawdling there in the afternoon. One morning I discovered a dead cat in the lot. I was fascinated and studied the corpse in great detail. Of particular interest was When I was six, prior to today's hypervigilant parenting, I would walk a little over a mile to my elementary school and back every day by myself. Along my route was a vacant lot full of weeds and the foundation of a home long since burned down. I regularly made up ghost stories about that lot and spent an unreasonable amount of time dawdling there in the afternoon. One morning I discovered a dead cat in the lot. I was fascinated and studied the corpse in great detail. Of particular interest was the trail of entrails exiting the rear of the cat. I was transfixed by a purplish, fist-sized organ, the identification of which was far beyond my ken. When I returned home, I spent some time studying my pet cat, fixating on the idea that she contained the same organs. Over the next few days I took note of the putrefaction of the dead cat in the lot. I intentionally sickened myself with the spectacle of maggots and flies amidst the pile of entrails, and when I returned home I would upset myself with the thought that similar rotting masses were within my own cat. I avoided my cat in disgust and would occasionally tell myself that something must be done, although just what that would entail I did not know. I eventually got over my idee fixe, and came to love my kitty cat again, but I never quite forgot that feeling, that irrational repulsion. This book is the only work of art to evoke that particular feeling in me. This is an awful and wonderful thing, a beautiful and deeply troubling thing. It's the pleasure of repeatedly poking at a sore spot in your mouth with your tongue. The horror in this novel is not in the events themselves, awful though they may be. The horror is in the fatalism with which the characters regard the moments of horror after they have passed. Each banal brutality is treated as inevitable and there is not much to be done about it after the fact. This world view is driven home by the fact that the postwar German village of the novel has a concentration camp on its outskirts that no one talks about or refers to in any way. It is the black hole at the center of the novel, a ghost town suitable only for graffiti and teenage rutting. In the modern day of the prologue and epilogue, the villagers resent the interest it generates in outsiders and fail to understand why the presence of the camp would overshadow the bucolic pleasures of their village. In the shadow of the camp, what use to get bent out of shape over the petty rape, incest, and murder of the day? The many comparisons to Shirley Jackson are apt, but this novel is really like nothing else I've ever read. It has my highest recommendation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I can't wrap my head around this one. Incredibly uncomfortable and disturbing. While it was well written, and I enjoyed the creepy tone and culture within the town, it's told from multiple points of view, and they all felt too similar. I feel like I would need to know the author's intentions behind some of the particularly disturbing scenes to really form an opinion on this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    TheBookSmugglers

    Originally Reviewed on The Book Smugglers Five friends reunite in the small village of Hemmersmoor, a rural town in the German countryside, many years after the bloom of youth has passed. Now old men and women, Martin, Christian, Linde, and Alex gather at Anke's grave, paying their last respects to the dead - a ceremony punctuated by Linde's hiking up her skirt and pissing on Anke's casket. Through a series of interconnected chapters, each narrated by one of the characters, Stefan Kiesbye unveils Originally Reviewed on The Book Smugglers Five friends reunite in the small village of Hemmersmoor, a rural town in the German countryside, many years after the bloom of youth has passed. Now old men and women, Martin, Christian, Linde, and Alex gather at Anke's grave, paying their last respects to the dead - a ceremony punctuated by Linde's hiking up her skirt and pissing on Anke's casket. Through a series of interconnected chapters, each narrated by one of the characters, Stefan Kiesbye unveils the past of these children and the strange, anachronistic German village, where superstition and fear rule as law. Through the eyes of Martin (the reluctant), Christian (the detached sociopath), Linde (the bitter), and Anke (the selfish) we learn about the group and the things they have seen and done over the years. I'm at a loss to aptly describe the effect of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone. It's an eerily detached novel, with characters that range from emotionless to desperate, governed by tradition, superstition and even the supernatural. It's an unsettling book. A quiet book. A surreal book. I'm not sure how I feel about it - one character murders his sister, one does the same to his father. One betrays a friend time and again; one's hopes and dreams are crushed and replaced with bitter pain. There is manipulation and betrayal, rape and murder. Your House Is on Fire is like a domestic drama, but set in a twisted, frightening German vision of town that refuses to modernize or change. I suppose this is the novel's true strength - it's success in creating an unsettled atmosphere and setting. The town of Hemmersmoor is a strange and nightmarish place, which in turn shapes the actions and perceptions of its inhabitants over the years. There isn't an actual dominant or linear storyline; Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone is a pastiche of different characters' thoughts and memories, which is eerily effective, but perhaps not to every reader's particular taste. There isn't really too much else to say about this very odd, effectively disturbing little book. It's memorable, certainly, and recommended if you're looking for a trip down a surreal, disjointed path.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Niki

    I don't know how to start this review so let me start with this: I hate the cover lmaaaoooo, other people seem to think it's fittingly creepy but I'm not feeling it at all. I definitely wouldn't have picked this up had it not been for the great reviews. Turns out it doesn't even have much to do with the book itself? And the little girl kind of looks like she's rolling a joint from afar? Now that I said "creepy": while this book undoubtedly falls in the horror genre, it's the same sort of horror t I don't know how to start this review so let me start with this: I hate the cover lmaaaoooo, other people seem to think it's fittingly creepy but I'm not feeling it at all. I definitely wouldn't have picked this up had it not been for the great reviews. Turns out it doesn't even have much to do with the book itself? And the little girl kind of looks like she's rolling a joint from afar? Now that I said "creepy": while this book undoubtedly falls in the horror genre, it's the same sort of horror that The Wasp Factory was: the horror that lies in the pure, unfiltered cruelty of people. There are some very vague occult elements (mostly superstition, and some talk of curses and ghosts- (view spoiler)[Christian's dad's death was the most unexplained event, iirc (hide spoiler)] ), but nothing is ever confirmed outright. I've said this so many times that I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I prefer my horror to be outright supernatural, something completely out of a human being's control, not just white trash hillbillies with no morals to speak of. "Unpredictable psychopaths that WILL get away with it!" is never all that scary to me. I'll give the book this, though: it's really well written. The narration never lays it on thick, it never relishes in the characters' suffering, never becomes overly descriptive with its language and descriptions, it's very-matter-of-fact, that's-what-happened, take it or leave it. Don't get me wrong, the way I'm describing it sounds like there was some grisly violence in the book, which isn't true. There's all sorts of violence in the book (of the physical AND mental variety), but it's nothing you haven't heard before. People get killed, people get manipulated, people get raped, all that. You've probably heard worse on the evening news. Not gonna lie, the book is moderately chilling at times (mostly due to the writing, not the content), but I think it's pretty forgettable. I doubt I'll remember it much this time next year.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lukas Anthony

    THESE KIDS WILL EAT YOUR SOUL. I will admit to knowing very little about the premise of this book going in, someone had recommended it to me basically with a 'it has creepy ass kids' by line, so in my head I was just expecting some cannibal kiddies running amok in the woods or something. Instead what I got, was actually quite a literary and masterful collection of short stories encompassing what a world would be like without morals or emotion. The little novella-esque tales here are all connecte THESE KIDS WILL EAT YOUR SOUL. I will admit to knowing very little about the premise of this book going in, someone had recommended it to me basically with a 'it has creepy ass kids' by line, so in my head I was just expecting some cannibal kiddies running amok in the woods or something. Instead what I got, was actually quite a literary and masterful collection of short stories encompassing what a world would be like without morals or emotion. The little novella-esque tales here are all connected through the town of Hemmersmoor (probably spelt that wrong), and we follow a group of four or five kids as they tell us stories of things they have seen happening in the village, and things they have done themselves…*cue creepy music*. If there is one thing that the writer does well here, it's setting the mood. When discussing it, my friend referred to this as a 'nasty little book', and that's exactly what this is. I've never actually read sociopathic characters written so well and believable. These kids are simply an empty void, and throughout all the stories, not a lot of taboos are left uncovered. Overall if you like your horror a little more literary this is probably a book for you. It also has that Shirley Jackson vibe, so I'd recommend it to people who enjoyed her 'We Have Always Lived In The Castle'.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Rose

    This was a terrible book. I almost never give one star ratings but in this case it's one more than it truly deserves. I'm torn between demanding my money back and going to hit the person who recommended it with my copy. I read because apparently it is one of the creepiest and scariest books ever written... This promise of a scare is nothing more than a book snob lie...it is just [i] rubbish [/i] There are undeniably unpleasant goings on in this (East) German village - but they are not 'creepy' th This was a terrible book. I almost never give one star ratings but in this case it's one more than it truly deserves. I'm torn between demanding my money back and going to hit the person who recommended it with my copy. I read because apparently it is one of the creepiest and scariest books ever written... This promise of a scare is nothing more than a book snob lie...it is just [i] rubbish [/i] There are undeniably unpleasant goings on in this (East) German village - but they are not 'creepy' they are just pointlessly violent - and there isn't really a 'story' just a load of pointlessly violent and un-scary chapters that don't really connect - apart from the weird sex the young adults seem to be having with each other... Although in fairness - the bunch of unpleasant characters deserve everything they get. Child abuse, murder of anyone who happens to be passing by, incest, ghosts and crazy people. It has the ingredients, it just doesn't work, because no effort is made to tell a story, so what we end up reading is nothing more than rather half-baked notes about about a bunch of bland, ignorant, psychotic nutjobs... The best thing about this book is that it is short, so it if you do have the misfortune to read it, at least it won't take very long.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I toyed with two stars but I’m an easy reviewer generally. Sometime after WWII in West Germany some kids grow up in the shadow of a concentration camp. Kiesbye saves that last bit for the final 20 pages. Before we get to that revelation, or twist if you will, people act in bizarre and selfishly cruel ways towards each other. That’s where the a-ha gets you - that concentration camp thingy. The problem for me was there is no subtlety. The behavior is too unbelievably weird over and over again and I toyed with two stars but I’m an easy reviewer generally. Sometime after WWII in West Germany some kids grow up in the shadow of a concentration camp. Kiesbye saves that last bit for the final 20 pages. Before we get to that revelation, or twist if you will, people act in bizarre and selfishly cruel ways towards each other. That’s where the a-ha gets you - that concentration camp thingy. The problem for me was there is no subtlety. The behavior is too unbelievably weird over and over again and Kiesbye hits you with basically the same message of selfish callousness until you don’t feel it anymore. These were the same places where a few years before people were cruel on an industrial basis. It’s like, okay we get that already. The author waits too long to pull the pin out of the grenade to where we are already numb to the fact that these people are going to act in the worst possible way in every situation. The knife is dull. The message is weakened. Would have been more effective in a novella length offering IMHO.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    I know this probably wouldn't be a five star for a lot of people but right now in my life this is absolutely five stars. When my birthday or Christmas rolls around and I ask for books from my mom she only buys me the ones I want along with a "happy" book of her choosing as well. She thinks I am too pessimistic and "those" kinds of books "only make it worse." She is so wrong. This book shows the sometimes terrific beauty found in the ugliest most terrible situations. Maybe that's only in my own h I know this probably wouldn't be a five star for a lot of people but right now in my life this is absolutely five stars. When my birthday or Christmas rolls around and I ask for books from my mom she only buys me the ones I want along with a "happy" book of her choosing as well. She thinks I am too pessimistic and "those" kinds of books "only make it worse." She is so wrong. This book shows the sometimes terrific beauty found in the ugliest most terrible situations. Maybe that's only in my own head, but hey, who are these reviews for anyway?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melli

    The story starts with a funeral attended by the elders of the village still remaining. The book tells the tale of their childhood growing up in the village and all of the tragedies that they witnesses and all of sadness. The story isn't as creepy but more like a wow what just happened as I thought. It's told in alternating voices of the children and in their perspective as things occur. Which I thought was pretty cool, definitely a quick enjoyable read.

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