Author : Lemony Snicket Genre : Middle Grade No. of Pages : 176 Publisher : Scholastic, Inc.
When I saw a bunch of ASOUE books at the Book fair, I couldn’t resist buying them. I know they are children’s book but I hadn’t read them as a kid. I saw beautiful matching hardcovers and I. couldn’t. resist. even though only not all books in the series were available.
The title and the synopsis totally got me. Since I’m basically an incarnation of the Grinch, I don’t enjoy happy endings and I do like to watch a character suffer in a book. So you say there’s a whole series dedicated to bad things happening to the main characters? SIGN ME UP. This is how I was hooked.
If you, like me, are new to this series, the first book The Bad Beginning begins with the three Baudelaire children enjoying a cloudy, gloomy day at the beach when they get the news of their parents’ death from Mr. Poe, their family friend. Their mansion has burned down and they literally have nothing left. Now these are kids, the eldest girl, Violet only being 14, middle child Klaus 12, and an infant baby girl Sunny.
According to their parents’ will they are to live with the nearest living relative until Violet is 18 and inherits their money. Seems logical enough so far. Except, the nearest living relative turns out to be a psychopathic Count Olaf whom these kids have never even seen before.
From this point onward everything goes down the Cinderella-style-child-abuse rabbit hole minus the fairy godmother and prince charming. It is made very clear that Olaf will do anything to get his hands on the Baudelaire riches.
The kids are grief-stricken from their parents’ death, alone and very scared. but they are smart and smart enough to take care of themselves even in the most dire situations. Klaus, the bookworm, has read extensively from his parents’ library and knows a lot of things. Violet, is an innovative inventor and can anything out of things available at hand. Even the infant Sunny is useful with her sharp teeth and her proclivity to bite things.
Which is probably a good thing because, the adults in this book are no good. Be it the completely oblivious, mumbling mess that this Mr. Poe, or his opportunistic wife, or the sweet-but-stupid neighbour Justice Strauss (how did she become a judge?!?!), any one whom you might think is likely to help the kids, they don’t. Count Olaf is just THAT crafty and the kids THAT unfortunate.
Lemony Snicket does not simplify the language too much, he has peppered the book with big words along with their meanings, which I think will help younger readers. Some may argue that this may be spoon-feeding and eliminates the need for kids to pick up a dictionary though. That makes sense too, although it’s an argument for another day.
Count Olaf. I know, I know, he’s the villain, we’re meant to dislike him. But that guy is proper trash. I HATED how arrogant he was, walking about the place with his lackeys, crafting ideas to bring down the kids.
I thought he was vile when he made the kids clean the toilet with a toothbrush and cook a feast for his actor friends. And then he goes to the length of blackmailing Violet into marrying him so that he can inherit her property. or he tries and fails; but the point stands that she was only fourteen. This being a children’s book, it really didn’t need to have a character with paedophilic propensities.
As much I like reading about suffering, the unfortunate situations the kids got into did feel forced at some point or the other. Like they written just for the author’s kicks. And may be also for people who enjoy that sort of thing, but it turns out it was more than I could enjoy. But I’m not going to abandon the series just yet; in fact I have definitely planned to read the other books when I can. May be I’ll love it more as the series goes on. May be I won’t. Let’s find out shall we? 🙂
My Rating : ★★★ out of 5.