The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I’m not going to lie to you, this is one of my favorite books and has been since I was about thirteen.  I recently gave it a re-read and was pleasantly surprised.

I think my expectations were quite low, as a lot of the books I read and enjoyed around that age have since turned out to be pants.  Not the case with this one.  If you’re not familiar with Lemony Snicket then give him a read – even as an adult he’s funny and clever and devastatingly honest.  As the book itself says “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle.”

This is a book in which three orphans loose everyone who is ever kind to them and are sent to live with a frankly dodgy ‘uncle’  who tries to marry one of them for their fortune.  It should be sad or cringeworthy or at the very least a little traumatic for the reader.  But it’s not.  And the reason it’s not is that it’s so beautifully written.  It’s funny and the children, despite all of the horrid things that happen to them do have each other.

One thing I thought might annoy me now is the explanations.  There are lots of explanations of words that some younger readers might not know, for example “Relinquished: a word which here means “gave to Count Olaf even though [Klaus] didn’t want to””.  I thought that I might find this patronising now, but on re-reading it just comes across too tong-in-cheek to be patronizing.  He’s defining the words to people who don’t know them and sharing a little joke with the readers who do.   It’s lovely and sweet!

I’m going to have to dig out book two- The Reptile Room- for another read.

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