Feeling Too Old
With the imminent release of the film and finding the omnibus edition of the first three books on special, I opened myself up to a Series of Unfortunate Events. The movie and my copy are actually the first three books of the series. Directed at a younger audience than Harry or Artemis they are written for ease of understanding, thus there isn't enough material in one book to make a film. Although, if you look at Dr Suess movies it's possible, if not terribly successful.
The Bad Beginning introduces us to the tone of the novels instantly, "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book." I like the idea of a book that works on opposites and this doesn't disappoint to start. Within the first chapter the Baudelaire children are beset with misfortune. While out at the beach their house burns down, killing both of their parents. Horrible stuff for a children's book.
Count Olaf is a fantastic sinister character. He's after the children's inheritance and will do anything to get it. He plots to do the nastiest things to the children and their guardians. False identities and murder, trickery and lies all set him up to get one big karmic slap at the end of each book. But, as the title of the series sets forth, nothing is fortunate for these kiddies.
Thankfully the Baudelaire's manage to out-think, out-wit and out-last (that seems familiar somehow) Count Olaf. Even in book two, The Reptile Room where he poses as a herpetology assistant and kills the children's Uncle Monty, and in The Wide Window when he appears as a Captain Sham the boat hirer. Nasty stuff.
Each of the children have an interesting character trait or interest which defines who they are and allows us to use stereotypes as our guide. Violet invents, Klaus reads, and Sunny bites things. I'm not very versed in fiction aimed at this audience and it took me a long while to warm to the style. Not the simple wording nor vividly simple visual descriptions, but way in which the narrator speaks to the audience.
For most of the first book I felt patronised by the explanation of words. The Baudelaire children frequently expressed dismay over it, and I felt the same way. It occurs far too frequently throughout each book. I became used to it, but it grated for a long while. When I was much much younger I enjoyed going to the dictionary to find out what words meant in a book I was reading (and I have no shame in doing it now). I understand why the author wanted to do it, but for me, it occurred too frequently.
I believe this series would be great to read aloud with children. I felt a little too old while reading them. A bit too cynical and aged. I think I need to find my inner child again. If you have children, read these with them. If you don't, find someone else's to read to or get busy!