Lizziegolightly's Reviews > The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
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Feb 25, 08

When I was a child, I learned a thing or two from reading the works of Roald Dahl. The most important of these lessons is that adults are, more often than not, either evil or oblivious and, to co-opt Lemony Snicket's writing style, by oblivious I mean "lacking conscious awareness; unmindful."

As an adult, I have only received mountains of proof substantiating the notion that adults are either evil or oblivious. All you need to do is watch the news or enter the workforce and you too will realize the same. So it is through this lens of animosity towards grown ups (hey, just become I am one doesn't mean I have to think like one) that I read the first installment of Lemony Snicket's 13-part serial A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Snicket, or his alter ego, seems mighty influenced by Dahl and Edward Gorey. Like the former, most of the adults in the book are worthless. Those who aren't are either dead or somehow taken away from the Baudelaire children. Like the later, bad things keep on happening to our protagonists.

The three Baudelaire children-- Violet, Klaus and Sunny-- live a rather charmed life with parents who love and respect them. Upon an unsupervised excursion to the beach, a fire consumes the Baudelaire home and kills the parents. The three children are taken into the temporary care of Mr. Poe (who has a son named Edgar, by the way) until a relative can be located. After some time, the children are pawned off on Count Olaf, a horrid actor with a title and no money. From the beginning, it is obvious that he has only taken in the children because of the vast fortune they are set to acquire. When he learns that the inheritance will be withheld until Violet is of age, he punishes the children repeatedly. We will stop there, lest I give away the end of this first book.

Aside from a page-turner plot, what works in the book's favor is the language. Snicket uses large grown-up words with the context of child-sized sentences. He defines the words without being condescending and goes on to explain many of the legal concepts that are used throughout the story. The characters are also intriguing. The adults in the story often appear as grotesque figures that make just enough sense to keep the storyline plausible. And, in the grand tradition of children's literature, the Baudelaire orphans are quick-witted and strong-willed.

I found this book as part of a three series boxed set at a thrift store by my house. Each book is small and hard covered, designed to look like a Victorian tome and filled with beautiful illustrations. Now, I can't wait to get started on volume two.
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Comments (showing 1-3)

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Randi True, Roald Dahl wrote of careless adults and the children in their care. But, it seems to me that there was always someone or something helping to look out for the children.
Lemony Snicket seems to enjoy leaving these children to the most dreadful fo circumstances with no one to stick up for them.

I did not find this book to e at all uplifting or encouraging, as a found Dahl's books to be. This was filled with ugly, hateful adults who took repeated advantage of these children.

Not the kind of lessons I want my child to learn.

I appreciate your insights but have to disagree.

Taylor Wow u speak my language!

Skillsfreak I loved these books! I thought the weirdness was something different and not typical which is what made me want to read them and I wanted to try figure this nut out!! I read them all before my kids did and they enjoyed them as well!! They are the type of stories you either love or hate. I thought they were funny and mysterious. Five stars from me!

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