I have had this book in my house for quite a while. There has been so much hype about it, I felt one day I was going to have to see what it was all about, but it took me a while to get around to reading it.
Make no mistake. The Bad Beginning begins badly for the three Baudelaire children, and then gets worse. Their misfortunes begin one gray day on Briny Beach when Mr. Poe tells them that their parents perished in a fire that destroyed their whole house. "It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed," laments the personable (occasionally pedantic) narrator, who tells the story as if his readers are gathered around an armchair on pillows. But of course what follows is dreadful. The children thought it was bad when the well-meaning Poes bought them grotesque-colored clothing that itched. But when they are ushered to the dilapidated doorstep of the miserable, thin, unshaven, shiny-eyed, money-grubbing Count Olaf, they know that they--and their family fortune--are in real trouble. Still, they could never have anticipated how much trouble. While it's true that the events that unfold in Lemony Snicket's novels are bleak, and things never turn out as you'd hope, these delightful, funny, linguistically playful books are reminiscent of Roald Dahl (remember James and the Giant Peach and his horrid spinster aunts), Charles Dickens (the orphaned Pip in Great Expectations without the mysterious benefactor), and Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies). There is no question that young readers will want to read the continuing unlucky adventures of the Baudelaire children in The Reptile Room and The Wide Window.
It is a rather short book, perfect for a slightly stressful night at work where I wanted to feel like I accomplished something at the end of it. Last night, it was reading this book. As Lemony Snicket says on the back of the book: "In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast". It truly is a rather depressing book, and I am sure that all the other twelve books that come after it are equally unhappy. I might read the rest of them, have to wait and see.
I can say I read at least one, maybe one of these days I will watch the movie. I haven't done that either, but then there are a lot of movies that I would like to have watched and haven't. Anyways, this book was a very fitting Friday the 13th read.