You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann

Spooky but short…

😀 😀 😀

Our narrator is a screenwriter who had a big success with his last film – a light buddy movie. Now he’s under pressure to come up with a script for a follow-up and he’s struggling. So he takes his wife and young daughter to an isolated house in the mountains of Germany where he hopes he’ll be able to write. But the house seems to have been built on some kind of nexus that distorts space and reality, and people have disappeared from it before…

This is a pretty standard scary story, made fun by the quality of the writing and the elements of humour. Our narrator is not exactly likeable – he likes to think of himself pretentiously as an artist although his successful screenplay seems to have been nothing more than a bit of fluff, as his wife is kind enough to point out. He might also not be reliable – he’s under stress, his marriage is rocky and it’s possible these things are causing him to imagine things. But it’s also possible that strange things really are happening – he believes they are anyway. And as the book progresses, the strange things become increasingly spooky, creating a real spine-tingling atmosphere of mild horror. It’s entirely gore and violence free, and largely incomprehensible being loosely based on quantum thingamajigs or something, but there are some lovely moments of real suspense. Kehlmann also plays with many of the clichés of horror – the isolated house, strange villagers giving omens of doom in curious dialects, and so on.

Daniel Kehlmann

Overall it’s a highly entertaining horror story, but no more than that. It’s also very short – by my reckoning probably 80 pages or so (I was reading on Kindle). I’d think of it more as a longish short story than even a novella. And yet it’s being marketed and priced as if it were a novel. If I read this in an anthology I’d be giving it 5 stars for sure. But if I’d paid full book price for it, I’d be feeling extremely short-changed round about now. I’m not sure what the publisher is thinking of really. So I enjoyed it, but can’t recommend it as one to purchase until it’s priced as what it is – a single short story. However, if you stumble across it on offer anywhere, then it’s well worth a read.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Quercus.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

Book 2 of 20

49 thoughts on “You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann

  1. Hmm…that is annoying about the pricing, FictionFan. But it sounds as though the story is enjoyable. And that can work really well to depict that narrator as possibly unreliable. I do like a bit of wit in my books, too. I may very well try this one if I see it on offer.


    • It’s the marketing too – the blurb definitely makes it seem as if it’s a novel. And I’ve noticed it’s already getting hammered in reviews on Amazon by people feeling aggrieved about being misled. Pity – because it is well worth reading as a short story.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is – really poor marketing that’s backfiring by attracting lots of negative reviews from people feeling they were misled. Which is a pity because, as a short story, it’s good fun…


  2. Hmm this does sound interesting, but really what is the publisher thinking putting this at full
    Price? Yeesh, it’s like “help me help you” sometimes with them


    • Yep! I can’t imagine the publisher will keep it at book price for long since it’s already attracting aggrieved negative reviews from people who bought it at full price…


  3. Rats! This one sounds interesting, but I prefer to get my money’s worth from a purchase. I suppose the publisher thinks the author and the story should be enough to charge full price, but that doesn’t seem right to the buyer. Oh, well, at least you enjoyed it and didn’t have to pay full price for it, right?!


    • Yes, just as well I got it from NetGalley but I’d have been really furious if I’d bought it. The Kindle price is bad enough but the paper version is ridiculously highly priced. I really don’t understand what the publisher is thinking…


  4. Sounds good, and I like a short story/novella. But it seems like the publisher is not doing the author any favours by not being clear about the length. It’s a shame their greed is negatively affecting his reviews.


  5. How strange… what a bummer that it’s selling for the price of a novel. I wonder why it wasn’t made part of a collection or given a reasonable price.

    I recently finished Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation (not good, btw), but at least it was a novella priced as a novella. It’s one thing to not like a book, it’s another to not like a book /and/ feel marginally ripped off.


    • I don’t understand it – it’s a great little story but the marketing means it’s picking up negative ratings from disgruntled purchasers. If they’d sold it as a Kindle single at £1.99 they’d probably have done better with it in the long run…


  6. This sounds good to me, as I’m afraid of real scary stories, haha! But I don’t get the choice of price here, it’s a ripoff! I’m willing to spend all the money I (don’t) have on books, but it has to stay acceptable, and selling such a short story with the price of a novella is a bad move.


    • It is a good little story, with just the right balance of scariness and humour. But the pricing is just weird! I think we’re all quite happy to pay for books when we can afford them, but this does feel as if the publisher is taking advantage. I suspect it’ll backfire on them – the book’s already getting negative reviews from annoyed buyers… pity!


  7. I had no idea this was so short! Weird that they’re marketing it as a full novel. Hmm… But I’m glad you liked it. If I see it somewhere for a dollar, I’ll pick it up!


  8. This plot sounds like a newer version of The Shining, although when you wrote “the house was built…” all I could think was “on an Indian burial ground!” because that’s the excuse we had for every 80s haunted house horror movie ever.


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