Author: Lemony Snicket
Year: 1999 – 2006
Genre: Adventure – Black Humour
What is so unfortunate about this story
The name of Lemony Snicket’s series of books A Series of Unfortunate Events may ring a bell to you. That is probably because of the homonymous movie (2004), starring Jim Carrey and based on the first three books of a series of thirteen. Thirteen?!! Yes, you read right. But why so many? Usually the quantity of books in a saga means something. For example, there are seven Harry Potter books as this is said to be “the most powerfully magical number” and it appears several times trough the whole saga. The books of The Chronicles of Narnia are also seven, since the series is full of Catholic symbolism and this is a biblical number too. Well, thirteen represents bad luck, and this is exactly what the Baudelaire orphans have. A ginormous amount of bad luck.
It all starts when Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire receive the terrible news of their both parents’ death in an arsonous house fire. From that very moment, they continuosly fall from one tragedy to another, while they are hunt by Count Olaf, an evil man who desperately tries to steal their inheritance.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is filled with black humour. This is in fact, the most relevant aspect of the plot. It tells you how everything goes wrong for the three kids, who are witnesses of dreadful events, such as the murder of their love ones or the arrival of a disastrous hurricane. Nevertheless, they always find a way to get out of those situations. Because, just in case you don’t know, the Baudelaires are very clever kids. Violet is 14 years old and what she likes most in the world is inventing things. Whenever her hair is tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes, you know her thoughts are being “filled with wheels, gears, levels, and other necessary things for inventions”. Her twelve-year-old brother Klaus’ passion is, instead, reading books. He’s a voracious reader, just like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and seems to memorize all that he reads. Finally, there’s Sunny, who is a baby and loves biting things with her four sharp theeth. This is, unlike you may think, a very useful ability, and combined with Violet and Klaus’ skills, the Baudelaires always come up with creative solutions for their problems.
Lemony Snicket: possesor of a unique style
Although the plot is highly inventive and all characters have very original personalities, these are not the main reasons why I like the saga so much. What I like most about it is Snicket’s particular way of writing. There are a few recurrent characterists of it I would like to point out, since they provide the books with the authour’s funny and unique style.
In general, writers urge people to read their books, and when you grab one of them, you can read a brief and appealing description of it, sometimes along with a number of praises by prestigious newspapers. I said “in general”, because this is not the case. Lemony Snicket repeatedly mentions that the Baudelaires’ stories are not nice to read at all, and warns you that it’s about to get even worse. Moreover, he recommends you to stop reading, as you may regret it if you don’t. As though it wasn’t enough, he fills the space at the back cover of his books with the same warnings.
Another interesting feature of Snicket’s writing is the use of complicated words and the later explanation of its meaning in the context. “The three Baudelaire youngsters looked at one another surreptitiously, a word which here means «while Aunt Josephine wasn’t looking» “, to quote an example.
As the youngest sister Sunny doesn’t speak fluent English yet, the authour also translates her uncomprehensible words, like this: “«Swoh!» Sunny shrieked, which probably meant something along the words of «why in the world would you go swimming in a lake full of leeches?»” I just find this really funny, I mean, such a translation from a “word” like swoh.
The same he does with some idioms and expressions he finds appropiate for specific situations. Look at the following fragment from the third book (The Wide Window). “There is a way of looking life called «keeping things in perspective». This simply means «making yourself feel better by comparing the things that are happening to you right now against other things that have happened at a different time, or to different people». For instance, if you were upset about an ugly pimple on the end of your nose, you might try to feel better by keeping your pimple in perspective. You might compare your pimple situation to that of someone who was being eaten by a bear, and when you looked in the mirror at your ugly pimple, you could say to yourself, «Well, at least I’m not being eaten by a bear».” Snicket gives you examples and comparisons, as if he was worried that you may not understand. And whenever he has the opportunity to add a touch of black humour, he does it. Why, if not, would he have said that thing about being eaten by a bear?
Finally, there’s a last pecularity in Lemony Snicket’s writing, and it’s his active participation in the storytelling. He doesn’t limit himself to saying just the facts. He adds personal opinions and often anecdotes of his own that merely have to do with the story, like mentioning that he once enjoyed chilled cucumber soup in Egypt, while visiting a friend of his who works as a snake charmer. That way, you get to know the authour better, who is actually kind of another character in the books. Lemony Snicket is, to say the truth, a fictitious person and does not exist in real life. I love this, and I think that it makes A Series of Unfortunate Events even more special. Lemony Snicket is as interesting as any other character in the story.
Time to give an end to this review
I’ve written too much already, so I’ll finish here with my absolute recommendation of this series of books. Children, teens and adults might find it equally enjoyable, so if you have the opportunity to read them, at least just one of them, I really suggest you to do it. For further info, you can visit Lemony Snicket’s Official Webpage, or leave a comment below.
Oh! And please, whatever you do… just stay away from Count Olaf 😉
– Written by GuadiRC –