I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.
In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.
It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.
With all due respect,
A Series of Unfortunate Events is exactly that. Never have I enjoyed the misery of others as I did in this brief, yet endearing read. If you are seeking some sort of gratification or happy ending, as our narrator warns, you may want to shelf this one. Although I do not recommend missing this wonderful charming and fun read. It is hard to imagine that a story based on the absolute misfortune of three young children could work so well, but it completely does.
The Plot and World Building:
The Baudelaire children seem to have drawn the short end of the stick in life. After the catastrophic event of losing both parents and their home in a fire, it is hard to visualise their situation worsening. But when they learn they are being sent to live with an unknown relative things seem to only spiral further down hill for the three siblings. Sent to live with their elusive relative Count Olaf, they are met with one misfortune after another as he sets his sights on their trust fund. Their inheritance is not to be released until the oldest, Violet comes of age. Olaf has other plans though. It quickly becomes obvious as to why the children cannot recall their parents ever mentioning this odd and seemingly sinister family member.
The author has managed to construct a dark and depressing world that is easily conveyed through appropriate narration. Add the occasional accompaniment of enjoyable illustrations and you have a steady paced and entertaining read that is easy to finish without putting down.
The main and supporting characters are straightforward and well developed . We have three Baudelaire children. Violet being the oldest and then the middle and only son Klaus. We also happen to have one “bite-happy” infant by the name of Sunny. While there is not a particular amount of growth occurring with the siblings during this tale, I am convinced this will occur in later additions to the series. The children are presented as intelligent, strong-willed, and likable. It is easy to fully sympathize with their predicament.
“It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.”
― Lemony Snicket,
Count Olaf is atrocious! This perhaps one of my favorite additions to the story. As a villain he raises the bar and sets it very high. He is heartless, greedy, and disgusting. We know nothing of his past but quickly grow to hate him and his cruelty toward the children. He is angering as any villain that is done proper should be. When we are introduced to him, we soon learn that there is the image of an “eye” tattooed on his left ankle that also appears frequently throughout the book in relation to Olaf himself. I am not entirely sure how this “eye” factors into the story or what the full symbolism is. I am however, confident later books reveal the true meaning. As a main antagonist he is easy to detest and all that one could hope for in a fantastic villain.
“The only good thing to be said for Count Olaf is that he wasn’t around very often”
― Lemony Snicket,
The Bad Beginning is cleverly written with a touch of subtle wit that helps bring a certain air of lightness to an otherwise depressing story. In all reality, it is a very good beginning to what I belive may be a great series. While this is generally classified as a children’s book and geared towards younger audiences, I feel it truly has something to offer for everyone. The conclusion is smooth, allowing for a flawless segue into the next edition. The characters are eccentric and engaging. I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have allowed this delightful read to sit on my bookshelf for so many years!
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐