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A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of those series that I think everyone should read, or at least attempt, at some point in their life. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire need to be added to that long list of characters that you just love for no particular reason. Violet is the oldest and somewhat of an inventor; some of the things she comes up with in this book are so impressive, and I love that she's constantly looking out for her siblings. Klaus is possibly my soul mate; he's the biggest bookworm around and the researcher in any and all plans the Baudelaires get up to. Sunny sounds like such a fun baby, but watch out for those teeth! Her principle role in this book seems to be 'biter', as that's just about all she can do right now. I do love the fact that both Violet and Klaus can understand her baby talk, though. So this book was certainly unusual when compared to the other books I read when I was younger, mostly because it is in almost no way a happy book. I'm struggling to think of a moment when these three children are actually, truly happy from about four pages in. But don't let that put you off! The aspect of this book that I adored the most wasn't actually part of the plot, but it was the style it was written in. Lemony Snicket writes as though he's having a conversation with the reader, and in many instances speaks directly to you. Without experiencing it first hand, you might think that sounds awful and would just completely destroy the flow of the story, but somehow - believe me when I say I have no idea how he does it - he makes it work. One of the greatest things about this book is that at no point throughout your reading of it will you sigh, put the book down and find someone nearby to complain to about having already read so many books with similar aspects. Since first reading this series, I've read hundreds of books, and I am yet to find anything that reminds me in the slightest of Lemony Snicket's little gem. In my mind, this is truly an original book so if you're looking for something that's completely new, this is the book for you. I find it difficult to put an age range with The Bad Beginning, or, in fact, the entire series, as it seems to fall between them all. Young children may enjoy them, but become confused as to why the narrator appears to be talking to them directly and perhaps the seemingly never-ending 'series of unfortunate events' (geddit?!) would be too much at a young age. Older readers may appreciate them more, but it must be said that the book just feels like it's meant for a slightly younger audience. In the end, I think this book is just for anyone and everyone. If you think you might enjoy it, I wholeheartedly think you should give it a go - no matter how old/young you are. I think you'll be in for a treat!
Lemony Snicket is a lot like marmite, you either love his writing style or you hate it. I'm a big fan of marmite and so i bet you can guess what i think of Lemony Snicket. The Bad Beginning is the first in a series of 13 books about the Baudelaire children, Violet, the inventor, Klaus, the reader, and Sunny, the biter. We get taken on a rites of passage adventure with mystery, overcoming the monster, tragedy and comedy plot lines thrown in throughout the series. Snicket writes with a narrative that is unlike traditional author/reader relations. Most authors prefer to either take the omniscient third person approach, or the unreliable first person approach, and very rarely (though i've only seen two authors do this successfully) you can get a second person narrative. Snicket is one of the only writer's i've seen so far who combines all three narrative approaches and has it actually work. This is why he's like marmite, for he breaks the traditional author/reader relations in a very extreme way. The story of the Baudelaires (obviously) starts with the Bad Beginning. Unfortunately this particular book is mostly an introduction to Snicket's incredible narrative and an introduction to the main protagonists. Personally i'd venture to say that the real adventure starts in the fourth book (The Miserable Mill) but it's worth reading the first three to get a grasp on the various backgrounds of both the narrators and the characters, in particular the main villain, Count Olaf, who will do anything to get the Baudelaire fortune, though even after reading the entire series you're never entirely sure why he's so intent on getting this one fortune, we're left still asking questions even after 'The End' (book 13) which, to me, is very good writing. All in all A Series of Unfortunate Events is an insight into the lives of the three Baudelaire children as they move from place to place after their parents die, where they meet a lot of friends and enemy's and are put through many trials due to the efforts of Count Olaf trying to get their fortune. The series itself starts off slow but picks up dramatically as you go on. It is written in a very interesting narrative that very few writers could pull off successfully, and like the Phantom Tollbooth has fun with language throughout. Well worth a read.
well actually i have never read or watched it but my best friends have and they said it was amazing soo. and i am going as violet to my best friends sleepover and i made the dress. i think she is really pretty!!if i knew where to buy the book i would totally buy all three of the books and i advise you do to. or you can watch the movie if you don't like reading. i don't like reading that much but i will probably watch the film. hope you found this information useful and good. thank you for reading this comment.love katie x x x x x x x
I first read this book not long after it came out, and I have to say I was dissapointed. I have since reread it, and my opinion was no different. The story itself is not exactly cheerful, but to be honest I found the style of writing dull. I know this series is incredibally popular, but I just cannot find much good in it. Honestly, I have read all the books, but mostly because I hate leaving a series unfinished. The characters are rather, well, 2D in my view. They just don't seem to have a spark that many other writiers give, and while I think that the storyline and the personalities of the characters are well thought out, something about the way the are written into life just does not appeal to me. There are many good little points to be taken from the book, such as sticking by your family, but personally I wouldn't give it to children until they were at least 11, simply for the fact it is a very doom and gloom storyline. The book begins with Violet, Klaus and Sunny, the three Baudelaire children, keeping themselves occupied at the beach on a gloomy day. Violet is an inventor, she loves to create useful objects, and when creating her latest device ties her hair back with a ribbon. Klaus is an avid reader and absorbs knowledge rather like a spounge, and Sunny, the youngest of the three, is a baby who loves to bite. Her teeth are unusually sharp, and she cannot talk properly yet, so the narrator has to translate for her. This trip to the beach is the start of a long and sorrow filled story for the children. Violet is alarmed by the sight of a figure approaching through the mist, but it turns out to be Mr Poe, a banker with a tendancy to cough or sneeze over important information. He tells the young children that their parents have been killed in a fire which consumed the mansion which was their family home, changing their lives forever. After a brief stay with the Poe family the Baudelaire orphans are taken to live with a distant relative Count Olaf in his wreck of a house. Olaf is a terrible actor, convinced he is the worlds greatest thespian, and a evil man, determined to steal the Baudelaire fortune for himself. He mistreats the children, forcing them to do work even adults would find difficult and hitting Klaus at one point, all the while plotting against them. Unfortunately after being revealed for the villan he is Olaf and his allies escape to wreak havoc in the childrens lives again.
I must confess that when my eleven year old daughter first implored me to read this novel, I was not desperately keen on the idea - I am happy to read childrens books to my children, but with so much out there to read, it has been a very long time since I have read a book aimed at children other than in their presence! However I was eventually drawn in by her boundless enthusiasm, plus the fact that she usually hates bad things happening in movies, books and TV programmes, so if she managed to enjoy this, it had to be good! And I have to say that overall I was very pleasantly surprised. The story revolves around three children who are orphaned by a fire which kills both their parents and destroys their house. They are therefore sent to live with a horrible distant relative whose only interest in them is that he hopes to get hold of the family fortune which has been bequeathed to the eldest child, but which she will not inherit until she comes of age. There are many things to like about this book. One of my favourite features is the way in which the author, rather than 'dumbing down' his vocabulary in order to make it more accessible to his young audience, uses some fairly advanced vocabulary - but then explains it within the text, so the book becomes educative as well as entertaining. Were the text to be peppered with these, it might become annoying, but as they only occur every few pages, it isn't at all. But how is it that so many people have enjoyed this book, given that it makes it clear throughout that you are going to hear nothing but misery and woe with regard to three children? I really can't answer that, other than that maybe because you are forewarned, there are no nasty shocks when these awful instances do transpire! And of course there is always the challenge that if someone tells you that you should not do something (ie read this book, which the author explicitly suggests on the back cover!), you automatically feel compelled to do the opposite! So overall I am very pleased that my daughter managed to convince me to give it a go, and certainly would not rule out reading some or all of the remaining twelve books in the future!
I was a big reader as a child, and used to love all the adventure and mystery books, given to us by the likes of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. I loved the fact that the bookswere full of twists and turns, lots of scary moments, and eventually, always ended with the heroes or heroines winning through, solving the mystery and saving the day. As I grew up, I found I didn't get the same satisfaction from the, much more serious adult 'crime' books, and only REALLY enjoyed a mystery book again when I picked up the Harry Potter series a few years ago. Although really aimed at children, I found this style of book could still be enjoyed by adults, but held onto that nice light-hearted feel, where you know the hero will win through. Having finished the Harry Potter series long ago, I've searched for something similar ever since, to no avail. That is, until I heard about the genius that is Lemony Snicket. Snicket is the mind behind this series of books, entitled 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. Lemony Snicket, clearly a pseudoneum, writes as a sort of undercover agent, who has promised to make these stories available 'to the general public', and who, through the books, makes little comments as asides, about his past and present circumstances, which sound just as interesting as the story he's writing, and would make a good novel on their own! This book, 'The Bad Beginning' is the first in the series, and, as the title implies, describes how this series of unfortunate events begins. The story revolves around three siblings - the Baudelaires, who lose their parents, house, and all their belongings in a terrible fire. They are sent to stay with the fourth main character in the book, the terrible Count Olaf, a distant relative of their parents, who only seems interested in stealing the huge fortune left to the orphans. The first thing to attract me to the book was actually the little paragraph on the back cover (incidentaly, not the cover shown, but the original first book before the movie came out). Where most books use this little blurb to attract you to read it, Snicket does the exact oposite, and advises the reader to put this horrible tale of woe back down and pick something happier to read. If anything is going to make you nosy about what's in a book, that will! Although primarily aimed at younger readers, the book is very suitable for adults - I was as confused by the twists and turns as anyone! - and Snicket has written the story very well, adding great little bits of dry humour, and use of vocabulary better understood by a more mature reader. The first book in the series does not disappoint, and certainly leaves you wanting to read more about these poor children and the despicable Count, not to mention the strange life of the author himself! The only difference from the rest of my favourite childs adventure stories, is the end of this book. I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, but Snicket does warn readers throughout the book that this particular story does not have a happy ending, and although the heroes do their best to win, it is unfortunately not to be, and the evil Count and his associates do seem to get away. However, this does just make you more interested in reading the next and the next books in the series to see if eventually he will get his comeuppance. This book, and the two following, were recently made into a film, simply entited 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. Although a great film, I'd certainly still recommend reading the books, as I found many parts had been missed in order to combine the three books into one. You also miss out on the unusual style of writing Snicket uses, which really adds to the charm of the stories. The Bad Beginning is a fabulous book, whether to read yourself, to give to your kids, or to read together as a bed time story. It is very well written, really holds attention, and has all the ingredients for a huge children's hit.
Having watched the film last year, starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf and Jude Law as Lemony Snickett, and throughly enjoying it, I finally got around to picking up the first volume in this 13 part series of children's books. Normally I would not include a description of the outside of a book in my review, but the original edition I have is beautifully bound and it would be almost criminal not to mention it. Inside the front cover is a small place for your child to inscribe their name and throughout the book, the story is accompanied by excellent illustration that wonderfully compliments the text. The story is not a happy one, as Snickett is at great pains to emphasis at every point in the book. Three children are orphaned when their parent's house goes up in flames whilst they are at the beach and, in accordance with their parent's last wishes, the three are soon shipped off to their nearest living relative; a cruel man known as Count Olaf who is part of a theatrical troupe. Not only does he work them to the bone but his domain is constantly filthy and he seems determined to make the orphans' lives miserable. But there is more to Count Olaf than meets the eye, for at night he secretly harvests plans to obtain the family inheritance that has been decreed will not become available until the eldest daughter comes of age....his nefarious scheme to plot against the system then, forms the basis of this first adventure and only the childrens' ingenuity and initiative will be enough to keep themselves from falling to harm.....if that is they can work out what he's up to... Anyone who has seen the film will know it encompasses the first three or four books and so will know how this all pans out but that does not make this any less enjoyable. Indeed this has all the hall-marking of becoming a childrens classic if it has not done so already and is a million times better written than those awful Harry Potter books. It is also educational with Snickett constantly stepping outside his narration to explain the relevance and meaning of certain words and phrases. Although for an adult this can get a bit tedious it is nonetheless a nice touch that will encourage children to read and discover new worlds of their own. All in all, there is very little bad one can say about this book and I cannot wait to obtain the next in this series of unfortunate events....
Book Info: Name: The Bad Beginning Author: Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) Released: September 1999 Series: Book one in 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' Awards: Nevada Young Readers Award, Colorado Children's Award, Nene Award RRP: £6.99 Children's books are special, very special indeed. There is something very imaginative and creative with each one, and a pleasing innocence, even with novels of dark tone, playfully skip from page to page. First published in 1999, Lemony Snicket's 'The Bad Beginning' is the first book in a series of 13 wonderfully titled 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. With only 163 pages, would it captivate my attention or is this best kept for the children? Lemony Snicket plays the role of the narrator as if he is actually in the book, apparently he is so shocked by the lives of the Baudelaire children he feels it is his sole duty to report these events in the form of a book. Now it is these Baudelaire children where the story really begins as over the first few pages we find out that Violet, Klaus and Sunny are made orphans as their parents sadly perish in a house fire. As the Baudelaire's Will Conductor, Mr Poe places the children with a distant relative called Count Olaf, but as we quickly discover he has other intentions on his mind other than looking after the 'orphans'. Life quickly goes from bad to worse for the Baudelaire as Count Olaf treats them as his very own slaves, cooking and cleaning all part of the daily curriculum and their lives become a day to day misery. It is then that they discover a deadly plot orchestrated by Olaf to steal their inheritance and so they try to leave their uncle before it is too late. It is short, but the perfect length for the story to develop and entertain a child audience. The reason why it works so well is that it plays on the fact that it is a series of unfortunate events, do things improve? Or does nothing cheerful ever happen? This is a strong device to make us read on to find out. It may be dark and morbid at times but because of the personalities of the children, humour, purpose and interest is kept throughout. Snicket's writing style can be quite complicated sometimes with elevated lexis flooding the pages big words here and complicated analysis there, but he does it in a very understandable way for children to comprehend, almost always repeating what he means in a basic language. One way of looking at this is that it is done in a bouncy way meaning the child reading is more likely to learn new words giving them a sort of education, but on the other hand Snicket does overuse this method of writing and it does get repetitive very quickly. There is a heavy use of word play within the story as well which is quite good for a child reader to understand. An example is the play written in the story is by author Al Funcoot. This is actually an anagram of Count Olaf. The gloomy tone is backed up with Snicket's pessimistic forecasts and comments often telling the reader not to carry on reading if they are looking for a happy ending or for something good to happen. Count Olaf's language use is also very derogatory showing his strong opinions of orphans and life in general. He is quoted to like drinking alcohol and beef implied in a typically barbarian way compared to the nice meal the children made for him and his theatre troupe. His appearance is also sinister and overly unsociable with a misty atmosphere and monobrow. From the very beginning as the reader we are drawn to the children and take their side throughout their very awful situation and their stay with Count Olaf, knowing that the disgusting conditions that they live in are absolutely astounding. But what children can relate to them however is their almost superhero qualities. They cannot spit fire or fly or even control the weather but each of the children have a 'gift' something that can help them in any situation. For example Violet has the knack for making inventions out of the most simplest of items, Klaus loves to read and holds knowledge in the brain forever and Sunny, as the baby, is gifted at biting. The way Snicket implements each of these 'powers' into the story is very interesting and it also creates a believability to the story, a series of events that could happen in real life, adding a realistic element. Count Olaf's character however is partly unrealistic. He is obviously overly evil as to clarify his position as the 'bad guy' in the story and often made to be flamboyant. The use of themes and symbolism is quite subtle in the story but it is done in a way which can make you think. One of the main signs is the one of the eye. It is dotted around the house, tattooed on Count Olaf himself and actually plays a significant role in the series as a whole which actually works really well as a device to bring the reader back to read the next book in the story. Extremely clever and yet hardly noticeable, there is a letter to Snicket's editor at the end of the book which also describes events that foreshadow the events for the next book, again another sort of cliff hangar. However a weird and yet untouched theme is that of intermarriage. Children may not be aware of the situation but parents could see the link which is a little obscured. It does provide part of the story and is not done in a disgusting and sexual way but when the plan to marry Violet is first brought about it does raise a few eyebrows, being her distant relative, Count Olaf is again definitely stamped as breaking taboo. This story is fantastic, full of creative finesse and play on words, children will love it, find it funny and sad together and adults will gain a better perspective by reading it to them as it is best told out aloud. The characterisation is perfect defining each child different but equally important to the story and the threatening attitude of the narrator is original and yet interesting too. It is quite short and seems to be a little rushed in its ideas as a whole but children won't be able to wait for the next book to be read to them. Its theme of intermarriage is a little unnerving to be in a children's book but when put into context it does make sense. It may not contain magical wizards, evil zombies or even superheroes, but the way this story unfolds mixed with the children's own unique relationship with each other more than qualifies it as one of the best children's books there is.
Even though I am in my 20's I have always been a big fan of children's books and when I first read about the book "a series of unfortunate events" by Lemony Snicket I knew I would love them. My prediction was correct and I have all 13 books in my collection and I have read them several times each. The bad beginning was the first one of the series. The book is very dark and depressing. I was quite surprised when I read it the first time round as nothing really nice happens at all through the whole book and I know it seems crazy but this is one of the reasons why I like it so much. Its just so different from other children's books I have read and this is what makes it so different. I really like the way Lemony Snicket stops and starts in this book. By this I mean he stops the story and actually tells you what words mean. I think this gives the book a great affect and just seems more real to me. I think there is also a page in the book where he wants to get across how big something is so he uses a whole page of VERY VERY VERY etc so you can understand just haw big this thing is. The book is about three children called Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. The book actually starts where the three children are standing on a beach and a friend of their parents Mr Poe comes to them and tell them that their parents have just been killed in a fire and that the house is completely ruined and that they are now orphans ( I know what a horrible start). Mr Poe has the job of looking after the Baudelaire's fortune (their parent were very wealthy) until the eldest reaches an age where she can inherit the money. Mr Poe also finds a place where the Baudelaire's can stay and describes their new carer Count Olaf as their "third cousin four times removed, or their fourth cousin three times removed". It becomes clear in the beginning of the book that Count Olaf is only after the Baudelaire's fortune and he will do anything in his power to get hold of it.Count Olaf is horrible to the children and makes then clean and cook daily and does not feed them proper meals. He is an actor and makes the children cook for his friends knowing that there is little food in the cupboard and will not give the children more money to purchase more. Each of the three siblings has a distinctive skill that often helps them during their adventures. The eldest Violet is great at inventing things and when she ties her hair back in a ribbon her bother and sister know she has a plan is about to invent something. Klaus has a wonderful memory and loves to read books. His knowledge helps his sisters out of some tricky situations. Their sister Sunny is a baby with extremely sharp teeth. She can bite anything in half and is a big help to her siblings with this talent. This book is about many of Count Olaf's plans to get hold of the Baudelaire's fortune. One of his plans involves a play Count Olaf has written called "The Marvellous Marriage" But you will have to read this great book to find out what happens.
This was the original book on which the film starring Jim Carrey was based. The book, as they usually are, is much better than the film and many bits were changed for the motion picture version. The books are hardback and the originals look a lot better than the one pictured here. Lemony Snicket, the authors persona, tells the story in a unique style that is accessible to people of all ages, but mainly teenagers. The Bad Beginning tells the story of how the Baudelaire's were plundered into orphanage after the death of their parents in a fire. they are taken into the care of their uncle Count Olaf, an evil figure who has them work like slaves and seems intent on gaining the childrens fortune for himself. He hatches plot after plot to try and ensnare the children and the Baudelaires world is on the brink of falling apart when it seems as though a play has won Olaf all he desired. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are the Baudelaire children and are a real selling point of this book, they all bring something to the table. Violet, the ingenious inventer; Klaus, the bookworm; and Sunny, the talking baby who like to use her teeth. With these characters and the unique way of telling the story this book is a fantastic piece of work that will draw you in from start to finish. A great read.
Lemony Snicket (pseudonym of Daniel Handler) writes the dark comic children's books A Series of Unfortunate Events. After reading the back of the first book in this series I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. The back of the book is written as a letter to the reader. It tries to persuade the reader to put the book down and walk away. "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... 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, Lemony Snicket" I thought it was very unusual that the back of the book was trying to get you to put it down, as usually this is the selling point. I usually do prefer happy books but I still found that I enjoyed this book even though it is not at all happy. Three wealthy siblings, who have wonderful lives, they live in a huge mansion with their loveable parents, are clever, and have tonnes of money and plenty of friends. It sounds a lovely happy story doesn't it? But (shame there always has to be a but!) the children's misfortunes begin one grey day on Briny Beach when Mr Poe tells them that their parents have perished in a fire that destroyed the whole house, and as if that wasn't bad enough, they are sent to live with the evil Count Olaf, a distant relative. Count Olaf is a vile person who makes the children cook and clean for him. The children soon discover a shocking secret - he is planning to steal their wealth. He is determined to steal the Baudelaires' fortune and this is the first of his attempts to kill them and get his hands on the money. The book has lots of twists and turns and just as you think maybe their lives will begin to be bearable (instead of miserable) something else happens to them. Throughout the book if there is an unusual word or phrase an amusing definition explains what these mean. He explains them in the context of the sentence rather than just a definition that you'd find in the dictionary. I think this makes it easier for younger readers to understand what is going on. The book is easy to read, with a small illustration at the beginning of each chapter. I think the book is so easy to read because it is exciting and because I'd learned to love the children so I wanted to find out what was going to happen to them. The book is quickly paced, although I found it slowed down briefly in one part. I think this a fantastic start to an unusual series. Lemony Snicket is following the lives of the children so the narrative is very strong. He is a character in the background of the book. His character does seem to become more significant in later books though. I really enjoyed this book, so I have bought the following books. This book is the first in a series of 13 (an excellent choice of number considering the basis of the stories!) Although the books are written for younger readers, I think some adults might also enjoy this book. This is a good start to a series if you are looking to read something a bit different. Although it's a good start to the series, I don't think it's the best book. The books get better as they progress, so if you enjoy this one you will probably enjoy the rest even more. 162 pages RRP £5.99 Egmont Illustrated by Brett Helquist The book is in hardback (as are all the books in the series, although I believe some of them are now available in paperback) The other books in the series: The Reptile Room #2 The Wide Window #3 The Miserable Mill #4 The Austere Academy #5 The Ersatz Elevator #6 The Vile Village #7 The Hostile Hospital #8 The Carnivorous Carnival #9 The Slippery Slope #10 The Grim Grotto #11 The Penultimate Peril # 12 The End #13 I like how all the titles are alliteration (both words begin with the same letters, apart from the last book) Thanks for reading! Previously published on ciao (by me)
(NB: This is a review of the original book, not the film-tie in, as illustrated from the product description/image.) This book is about the woes of The Baudelaire children, who at the start of the book, are orphaned by the loss of their parents in a fire, and their efforts to escape the clutches of Count Olaf. Olaf has to be one of the vilest villains I have ever had the disgust to come across in a children's book. His dastardly scheme is to become their guardian and then kill them...as he knows that they have a huge inheritance...and if they were to 'tragically' get disposed of...then the fortune would become his. But obviously, the story isn't as straight forward as that, they get sent off to various other adoptive parents...which inevitably get the Olaf treatment, in order for him to step into their place as legal guardian. But will his disguises trick the 'minders' of the children, so he can have the Baudelaire fortune passed over to him? ...This man will stop at nothing! This book is great for children who are just beginning to widen their readership. The books are not too long, and the pages are presented well with an ample amount of text, so that on first glance of a page, the amount of words doesn't become over whelming for a child. There is enough action and adventure to interest. As well as enough comedy and subtle factual references to please parents, or the older reader. Each chapter starts with a beautiful illustration, superbly created by Brett Helquist. This book is surprisingly dark and Tim Burton-esque in places. I enjoyed reading it, but I'm sure children will enjoy it more. I liked the fact that one of the lead characters, is a girl, Violet, who is confident, clever and resourceful. A rather positive role model for all girls out there, I feel. So whilst some people might think that the dark quality of the book is best suited for boys, there is enough here to interest girls too. Another point worth mentioning, that I love about these books, is that the author, Lemony Snicket, is also a fictional character within the series and is documenting the tale of the Baudelaires for the public, to bring to the light the evil doings of Count Olaf. The real author however, is American writer Daniel Handler. My criticism is that the series as a whole is simply awful, uninteresting, repetitive and when I finished all 13 books, I was left with a feeling of 'so what' and annoyed that so many parts of the story as a whole, were left unresolved. However, this one is a good first book. If you're the type of person who has to complete a series, then I wouldn't waste your time with this one. But, if you just want a taster of the books, then this is probably the best one in the series, so give it a go. The books have recently been released in a paperback version, but I prefer the hardbacks so much more, they are so beautifully presented. They measure 17.6 x 13 x 1.8cm, have 180 pages and are published by Egmont. ISBN: 1405208678 Thanks for reading MarcoG © 2008 (also on ciao)
Violet, Klaus and their baby sister, Sunny Baudelaire are three very unlucky, very sad children. Their beloved parents have recently perished in a fire at their home. Not only have they lost their mother and father, but they have also lost all their possessions. The only things left to them are the clothes they stand up in. Mr Poe, the asthmatic, bronchial executor of their parents' will tracks down a relative with whom they must live. Count Olaf is not a nice man. Tall, thin, gaunt and distinctly suspicious, he does not treat the Baudelaire orphans well. They share a room with one bed, their clothes are dumped in a cardboard box and they must spend half the day doing chore after chore after chore. It is clear to the Baudelaires that Count Olaf has taken them in for only one reason: he hopes to get his hands on their fortune. With the aid of the kindly Justice Strauss, Violet the boffin with a talent for inventing gadgets and Klaus the clever bookworm must find and foil the Count's evil plan? Ack. I very much wanted to love The Bad Beginning, but I did not. It is the first in a series of gothic adventure books for children written by a shadowy figure known as Lemony Snicket. Lemony Snicket has spent years researching the fortunes of the Baudelaire children and it his "sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales". Lemony Snicket is the alter ego of Daniel Handler, San Francisco novelist and I gather that Handler cites people like Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey as influences. Frankly, I find that hubristic. Yes, there is Dahlesque dark humour in Handler's book, but this is mostly affectation. The Bad Beginning is deeply derivative but it is not derivative of either Dahl or Gorey. It reminds me far more of Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five, of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and of that horrid little dullard, Harry Potter. It is an adventure story come mystery in which children are pitted against an archenemy and ? after drawing on hitherto undiscovered heroic characteristics ? live to fight another day. The gothic, dark, scary, shivery bits are the book's window dressing, not its raison d'etre. As I finished reading The Bad Beginning, I felt overwhelmingly unsatisfied. I had expected much ? critics I trust had enthused excitedly on the book's release ? but I had received little. The Bad Beginning simply smacked to me of an attempt at creating The Next Big Thing, a money-spinner to rival Harry Potter. I had visions of marketing departments, of films, of toy figures, of branded everythings. The Bad Beginning is supposed to be dark, scary and depressing. And indeed, Count Olaf is rather dreadful and so are his horrible partners in crime ? the man with hooks for hands, the fat lady, the white-faced ladies. However, because these characters are such boringly ? and very un-PC for those of you who care about that sort of thing, although I don't - unoriginal stereotypes they fail to build much tension. Moreover, the resolution is deeply unsatisfactory. It is not dark or depressing at all ? there is a happy denouement followed by a "buy the next book please" bathetic set-up for the adventure to come. We might as well have watched an episode of Scooby Doo for all the surprises we got. On a more positive note, I have some praise for The Bad Beginning. Handler writes beautifully and with a very precise use of language. There are authorial asides and in many of these he treats his young readers to an amusing defin ition of a word or a phrase and these demonstrate the wonderful possibilities of language in a very entertaining way. At one point, the evil Count Olaf feigns regret at the way he has treated the Baudelaires and describes his behaviour as standoffish. Here is what Handler has to say about that: "The word 'standoffish' is a wonderful one, but it does not describe Count Olaf's behaviour toward the children. It means 'reluctant to associate with others' and it might describe somebody who, during a party, would stand in a corner and not talk to anyone. It would NOT describe somebody who provides one bed for three people to sleep in, forces them to do horrible chores, and strikes them across the face. There are many words for people like that, but 'standoffish' is not one of them." I love that dryness! The book is full of similar and super asides. I like the way Handler uses vocabulary to challenge but also to amuse and educate. There is a good strain of dark, satirical humour and there are many "ooh" and "eek" moments. I cannot say that The Bad Beginning is not entertaining, for it is. I simply wish that its two and two did not make merely four, but five or six or seven. It is written well, but it is formulaic and really no more than the sum of its parts. A great book is always more than the sum of its parts. Still, I am in my praising paragraph, so I should add that The Bad Beginning is presented wonderfully in dinky, mini hardbacks with a very gothic, Victorian feel. Brett Helquist's illustrations are just perfect ? small, crosshatched pencil sketches ? very creepy and shivery. Because of the dry style, the asides and the challenging but precise use of language, The Bad Beginning would be suitable for reading aloud ? and be st if you camp it up ? and for a wide range of children to read alone. It would fit nicely into the 8-12 bracket, with some leeway either side, I would say. I have not read past this first in the Series of Unfortunate Events. I found it too glib, too superficial, too much with an eye to the main chance. My older son Conor - who is eight - rather liked The Bad Beginning and has made a collection of the sequels. He likes to shiver and he likes to take in all those asides. However, once read, he has yet to return and re-read a single volume, even this first one, The Bad Beginning, and this is unusual for my bookworm son. He treats these books very much as consumables and this makes me feel rather justified in the criticisms I have made. Sadly, I think they are intended to be consumables. My younger son, Kieran ? seven ? did not like The Bad Beginning at all and has not been past the first chapter. He, like me, looks for soul in his books and The Bad Beginning lacks that emotional engagement needed for him to want to read on. Ultimately, The Bad Beginning is an opportunity missed. It is soulless. And yes, I am aware that to call a gothic book soulless is an irony in itself. I like my books to speak with real heart ? even a black heart ? and The Bad Beginning seems to me to be more an exercise in glib vocabulary pyrotechnics than a real desire to tell a story. It is a shame, but this is a sadly hollow book. It is immensely readable, amusing, entertaining, but it is all so? mercenary. The Bad Beginning is ? in a deliberate cliché - a disappointing triumph of style over substance. Depressingly and predictably, Jim Carrey is currently shooting the film. He will play the wicked Count Olaf. Watch out for that themed lunch box coming your way soon. Sigh. & #73;f you really want to buy in to the corporatisation of the books your children read, then address your browser to www.lemonysnicket.com to find out more. You will forgive me if I don't follow you. ISBN: 0 7497 4611 4
A series of unfortunate events, starting with The Bad Beginning - Advantages: Great for children and adults alike, Hardbacks are beautifully bound, Series of hardbacks would look well on any bookshelf - Disadvantages: Books are much shorter than the average novel
The book I am holding in my hands is Lemony Snicket’s The Bad Beginning and it is enough to send a shiver down my spine – of absolute delight, that is. If you haven’t caught up with this latest sensation in children’s publishing, now is the time. The first instalment in ‘A series of Unfortunate Events’ is a gothic tale for youngsters, complete with black and white illustrations, which will hook kids and adults alike. In a canny ploy which will lure the kids in, Lemony Snicket (such a great pseudonym) dares children <i>not</i> to read his book. On the back cover he tells them ‘there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once, and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.’ With Snicket around, who would? His dry narrator relates the misadventures of the Baudelaire orphans whose woes include encountering ‘a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast’. The narrator’s gift for irony and understatement is not the only attraction for readers who are (well) beyond the targeted age group in years. I was impressed by the book’s many allusions to ‘grown-up’ gothic. Not only are Snicket’s unfortunate orphans named after the relentlessly gloomy French poet, but his co-conspirator in dark Symbolism, Edgar Allan Poe is also referenced, a Mr Poe appearing in the first chapter as the harbinger of terrible news. Older readers will also appreciate the thoughtful design of the book, which serves to emphasise its unusual qualities and to reflect the gloom of the story. The book is quite simply a beautiful artefact with its jagged pages, bookplate and gorgeous gothic illustrations by Brett Helquist. This reviewer predicts that the series will be a collector's item to rival Harry Potter in children's literature circles!