The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket (Is this technically fantasy or...?)

I remember reading the Unfortunate Events books way back when I was a kid, desperate for something to read to tide me over until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released. I was wholly convinced that I would hate them because they weren't Harry Potter and obviously nothing could ever be as good as they were, but even I, as a stubborn and admittedly very arrogant and closed-minded kid had to admit after time that I really loved these books. Seeing myself slowly working through the ones that were one the school's library shelf, seeing that the books steadily got longer and longer, was absolutely thrilling for me. Not to mention that I would happily spend ages just examining the lovely hardback covers; something about them just appealed to my (then) childish morbid side. I couldn't get enough of the Baudelaires.

I never did end up following and finishing the entire series straight through to the end as they were released, and in my adult years I resolved to fix that and collect those lovely little hardbacks that I adored so much as a child.

Turns out, I still have a great time reading these. I don't think they're heading towards a classics list any time soon, and I couldn't elasticize disbelief enough at certain points to encompass a children's story, which of course I expect to be goofy and, well, childish at times.

I was actually really shocked by Count Olaf and his companions, and how creepy as fuck the lot of them were. Let's not even get started on his attempt to marry 14-year-old Violet Baudelaire - granted, he was doing it to take control of her family's fortune, but some of the little comments dropped that might be missed by kids wouldn't escape an older person's eye, and wow can it ever get creepy.

And, you know, while it made me uncomfortable at times, it actually made me feel a lot more for the Baudelaire children. They're forced to live with this creepy bastard that is apparently a relative of theirs, they're forced to deal with his associates - some of whom take a very disturbing interest in Violet - and they're essentially forced into servitude under Olaf, doing all of the housework for him while getting nothing at all in return.

And all that shit made me really feel for them, because real, actual kids out there have to go through this stuff, and it's neither fair nor right. The Baudelaires have had everything taken away from them and are very roughly pushed into a life they have no experience with, and they still somehow make the best of it, because they know that, at least, they still have each other to cling to. They know that as long as the three of them are together, they'll be all right, wherever they are.

This book taught me about the concept of a sanctuary right at a time in my life where I really needed something like that. The first time I read this since my childhood was like a punch in the gut. I had forgotten that something the Baudelaires do for comfort - build a little sanctuary, a place where they could spend a scratch of time forgetting about their problems and simply being safe - was something I'd learned from this book and still continue to do to this day. Dark corners, a space in my closet, even something as simple as a sheet pulled over my head are things I look for for comfort and some time apart from all of my problems. That alone really lets me empathise with the kids, and really want them to get through these books safely.

The characters are rather simple and easy to grasp as well. Violet, with her solid and calm demeanour and her talent for creativity, seeing inventions where others see only junk. Klaus, a little hot-headed, but terribly intelligent and with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, no matter the subject. Even Sunny, a baby who bites things, showing us that sometimes it's good to let curiosity get the better of us. Count Olaf probably has the most depth as of yet; he's very much a Scar or Jafar type personality, a man that others see as harmless or weak, when instead he's intelligent enough to coerce others into doing his work for him, letting him work from behind the throne, so to speak. Not all that much information is given about him, except that he has a weird fascination (or possibly fear?) of eyes, or being watched.

Thankfully I remember absolutely nothing about what happens in the later books, which means I get to enjoy them all over again. ♥