Title: The Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events #1)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Date Read: 16/01/2017
My goodness. I remember reading the first several books in this series back when I was about twelve, but I had no idea they were as dark as they are! Fortunately, that does mean that as an adult, I’m still able to get a huge amount of enjoyment out of them.
When the Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire’s parents perish in a terrible fire, they are sent to live with an alleged relative, Count Olaf, who treats them with contempt, forces them to live in squalor and do unnecessary chores, and who from the outset is clearly after their fortune. Unfortunately, the adults that should be supporting them are blind to the dangers and so it is up to the three children to foil the Count’s plot.
Snicket has a very particular writing style that I expect would not be everyone’s cup of tea. The tone is very dry and dispassionate, and he constantly defines words in the middle of sentences, which I know some readers find quite patronising. This didn’t bother me though, perhaps because I remembered it from my younger, less-discerning reading days, and so I knew what I was in for. The tone is one that I love, as it is just my sense of humour. The setting is a weird, gothic America, with no distinct time period or location. This also fits the mood perfectly.
The three characters are all very uniquely drawn. I particularly like that Snicket chose to make Violet the inventor and Klaus the bookworm. Many authors would have chosen to make the female character the quiet, nerdy one and the male character the one good with tools, so I applaud the choice to mix it up a bit. Sunny may only be a baby in this volume, but she has her own unique personality already.
Count Olaf is despicable, as are his cronies, but as the book points out, he is also very clever, and very ruthless. While he may sometimes come across as a bit of a campy villain, there are other times when he is chilling. I wanted to shake some of the other adult characters for being so clueless, but when they are not necessarily seeing the treatment the orphans are receiving, you can sometimes concede the points they make when arguing with the Baudelaires.
All in all, this was surprisingly entertaining, and I’m really looking forward to continuing the series.