By Jad Msan
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of thirteen adventurous and captivating books written by Lemony Snicket that tell the unhappy story of three orphans –Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, ages 14, 12 and 3.
The story goes that the orphans’ parents get killed in a fire that burns their mansion down. The orphans then need a place to live. A friend of theirs, Mr. Poe, is in charge of that. He takes them to live with Count Olaf, a distant member of the Baudelaire family. Mr. Poe does not know that Count Olaf is really a greedy and evil criminal who wants to steal the Baudelaire fortune.
Throughout the series, Count Olaf repeatedly disguises himself and tries to murder either two of the children or their guardian. As the guardians perish one after the other, the children get moved from place to place. It soon becomes clear to the reader why the series is entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The setting changes from book to book as the Baudelaire children move from household to household. For instance, when they are living with Count Olaf, there are pictures of frightening eyes everywhere in the gloomy and spooky house, so the children feel that they are continuously being watched. When they are living with Uncle Monty, they are exposed to pictures of snakes everywhere and an exciting reptile room, which cheers up the young bunch. When they are living with Mr. and Mrs. Squalor in the rich couple’s enormous penthouse, they get lost very easily in the never ending maze of hallways and rooms.
It’s comforting (for the lack of a better word) to see that the Baudelaires can handle each situation with ease and courage.
Violet Baudelaire is the eldest of the three children. At only 14 years old, she is already a great inventor. She is a very quick thinker, and this quality allows her to rapidly invent her way out of a tough situation. When Sunny was imprisoned in a bird cage hanging from the top of a tall tower, Violet used a curtain rod and clothes to create a grappling hook that she could climb to get to the top of the tower and rescue Sunny.
As for Klaus, he’s a very quick researcher and has a very good memory. When they were living with Uncle Monty, Klaus had to research how a certain type of snake would kill its victim so that he could prove that Count Olaf was disguised as a snakeologist and was guilty of killing Uncle Monty.
Sunny is the cutest three year old girl you’ll ever encounter in a book. Her set of teeth are extremely sharp, which allows her to bite Count Olaf’s assistants so that the youngsters do not get captured. In one book, she even uses them as a can opener to open a can of alphabet noodles in order to keep Violet from getting her head chopped off.
The three siblings form a quick-witted escape team, and will have you hooked on their adventurous and miserable journey. Although most of the books are filled with a succession of terrible events and great misfortune, the introduction of each book is ironically funny. And so is the back cover, which reads:
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 because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three Baudelaire youngsters.
You will also find a hint of humour here and there, seen in the short passage below:
Klaus thought this over for a minute as he swallowed a chewy bit of bean. But our parents never mentioned count Olaf to us. Just how is he related to us, exactly? Mr. Poe sighed and looked down at Sunny, who was biting a fork and listening closely. He is either a third cousin four times removed or a fourth cousin three times removed.
Each book, although oozing with sadness and despair, is so captivating that I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. I highly recommend reading A Series of Unfortunate Events as I loved every moment of it. But it’s not for the faint of heart.