As I mentioned in some posts a few weeks back, I was looking forward to the Netflix adaptation of Lemony Snickets’ A Series of Unfortunate Events (ASUE) starring Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire and that tempted me to re-read the books, especially as I only made it to book 9 when I first started them years ago.
A little background to start…
My memories of these books are all positive, I clearly recall the events of books 1-3 and then key moments in the others’. But this is a summary & review for the first three books they are; The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window.
These books take me back to high school when I would sit in the library during a free period or during English class and read as many pages as I could, which was easy to do because they are easy to read. I picked up the first book because a friend recommended it to me and I felt as though I needed the next, and then the next and then eventually I had the entire series sitting on my bookshelf.
The Bad Beginning is where it all starts and it is quick to begin which is my first love. You quickly learn who the Baudelaire’s are, what’s just happened and that a series of unfortunate events is about to take place. Straight away you hate Count Olaf and what he is doing to these now orphans. The first book shows us Count Olaf (the villain) will stop at nothing to get his scrawny long fingers on the Baudelaire fortune. In this case he proposes marriage in a ‘theatrical play’ which as readers we know is not just for a show and think why is Mr Poe (the perhaps under qualified individual in charge of finding the Baudelaire’s a new guardian) so oblivious to this sham theatrical play, but none the less you give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe it’s not as clear during the actual event as it is to me the reader. I say give him the benefit of the doubt because Violet does not marry Count Olaf and is free from his clutches…this time.
The Reptile Room is the second book in which you hope the Baudelaire’s will find peace of mind and never have to move again but it is not the case. This book introduces us the Uncle Monty and he is such an easy to love character, really opening and welcoming to the children, he has everything that makes them happy again…at least momentarily. And you think to yourself why couldn’t they be placed under Uncle Monty’s care in the first place and therefore avoid all Count Olaf’s devious plans. But alas just as we think the kids will no longer have an unfortunate event in their life and maybe Lemony Snicket named this series inappropriately we realise it was accurately named because Count Olaf reappears as assistant Stephano. Again Stephano tries to get a way to the Baudelaire fortune this time he kills the young orphans’ guardian and tries to frame one of the reptiles from the reptile room, Mamba Du Mal who is completely innocent in all of this. Mr. Poe is brought back into the story and whilst the children plead with him to believe that Stephano is actually Count Olaf they just cannot convince him. Eventually Stephano is revealed to be Count Olaf as he makes a clear getaway.
The Wide Window is the third book in which you hope the Baudelaire’s will finally have peace of mind but it is clear they won’t. We meet dear old Aunt Josephine in this book who is fearful of almost everything. The kids don’t harp on about how annoying that is because it would be rude and they are just glad to be away from Count Olaf. This is not the case though because before long we meet Captain Sham (appropriately named) who you guessed it, is actually Count Olaf in a little more convincing costume (he has a ‘peg leg’). Captain Sham seems to get chummy with Aunt Josephine quickly and soon after she has left a suicide note and broken the wide window that looks over Lake Lachrymose. Luckily the children figure out that the letter itself is a clue to where Aunt Josephine is hiding so they venture out in a very serious storm to rescue her. The most unfortunate event that happens in this book is that Aunt Josephine despite living and knowing that you shouldn’t eat before going into Lake Lachrymose because of the leeches, does exactly that. And eventually Captain Sham ‘Olaf’ throws her into the water and there is no chance of saving her.
I LOVE THEM! These books made me like reading, I was never one to sit on the couch and pick a book to read but they are so filled with fun, seriousness, subtle jokes, red herrings, an underlying mystery that it’s so easy to get consumed in it.
These books are quick which is great because you can read a couple of chapters and you’re already in the main part of the story. Perhaps what makes it so easy to read is the writing style. It is inspired, I tried to mimic Snickets’ style in my little summaries of each book above. He uses repetition throughout, which always solidifies whichever point he is trying to get across. Also, I quite enjoy the drop of a definition during the story and how it’s incorporated as one of Klaus’s traits but also the narrators (Snicket).
This leads me to the subtlety of Snicket talking about his own life in certain points. Truly I am only picking up on that now as an older reader and maybe because I know of ‘The Beatrice Letters’ which has a tie in somehow. In some cases you feel like he might be Klaus writing about past events to a love lost, Beatrice.
On a completely small note of appreciation, the alliterative titles are a winner in my books and thirteen chapters per book. What can I say I like order?
Overall the books are repetitive as you can tell from my summaries, the goal – evade Count Olaf. But although they are repetitive I can’t help but think it is building up to something big. If you like entertaining writing and series’ where you have the same base characters with one or so ‘new characters’ (it’s still Olaf really so does it count?) and don’t mind plot repetition, at least in the first three books (because I can’t remember if this goes on through 4,5,6…) then I say give it a go. I really like them and will continue to read them until I reach the end this time.
If you’re still unsure, maybe watch the Netflix series and then give the books a go?
I’ll be back with a summary and review of books 4-6 in a few weeks time. Let me know if you’ve read the series and what you thought about them, but no spoilers! For my sake and the wandering eyes of others.
“In a moment, everything can change”
– Hilary Duff