Title: You Should Have Left
Author: Daniel Kehlmann
Genre: Psychological Horror
Number of Pages: 128
It’s a shame the movie adaptation of You Should Have Left got such bad reviews because I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel. It’s not particularly character driven (which is usually the #1 thing I look for in a book) but I really liked it’s ideas and the mood it managed to create. It takes a lot of the elements of the standard ghost story (down to the title itself) and does something fresh with them.
The unnamed protagonist of You Should Have Left is a screenwriter with an unfaithful wife and young daughter. He doesn’t seem particularly talented but he’s making money with his stuff, and he and his wife and kid shack up in an isolated house while he works on his latest screenplay. Nothing can go wrong with that, right? Everything came up roses for Jack Torrance so I guess it will go great for this guy too.
As it turns out (surprise!) this house has it’s own share of weird shit going on. Instead of being your usual old-fashioned gothic mansion this house is was recently built and has a modern feel to it’s layout and architecture. The narrator soon starts having disturbing dreams and reality seems to stop ‘syncing.’ Things keep happening that he can’t explain and the locals are spectacularly unhelpful. What follows is… not what you might expect, I can tell you that much. Like the Overlook Hotel the house is almost a character in it’s own right and I love the creativity the author put into the story.
It’s a slow burn and feels somewhat experimental at times (with snippets of the main character’s screenplay scattered throughout) but when it begins to pick up it feels like a uncomfortable dream that you can’t shake off (in a good way!) That’s what horror is all about and this book is full of imagery that stuck with me and an uncanny sense of claustrophobia that grows in intensity throughout. I read this book in one sitting and I would recommend it to people who like weird psychological horror without much gore.
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