Summary from Goodreads:
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 Poe 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. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson
I’m so happy that my challenge set for 2015 was a re-reading one. Re-reading old favorites has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. And truthfully, I had mostly forgotten about the Lemony Snicket books. I read them all many years ago, but never took the time to go back to them. The reason I went back now was because two different friends highly recommended the audio (read by Time Curry!). Besides, I’ve already re-read the Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson books this year, so why not throw in more middle grade favorites?
I cannot believe I’ve never re-read these books. They are so wonderful and hilarious, and smart, and sad, and scary, and addicting. The writing style is so unique. There is so much wit and sarcasm written between the lines of this book, I always found myself smiling –despite the sad plot line. And who better to read hidden sarcasm and wit, than Tim Curry? Why am I only realizing now that he’s the voice of all these audio books. He’s fantastic. Seriously, what a perfect pairing. Tim Curry reading this book is like the perfect red wine paired with a perfect steak, cooked exactly as you ordered.
As a kid, I remember loving how the narrator explained what the harder words meant as he went along, and I took this as a learning tool. As an adult, I realize the sarcasm and humor behind each time this happens in the story and I love this even more. I love that instead of using simpler language (as many middle grade authors are want to do), this author uses the language he wants, but then explains some of the things a younger audience might not understand. He doesn’t dumb it down. And even better, he can teach a thing or two in the process.
I also thoroughly love the characters. I love that the girl character (Violet) is the one into engineering and inventing. She creates the devices that save the day, or at least attempt to save the day. And the boy character (Klaus) is the bibliophile, who’s knowledge and fast reading is required to also save the day. Though, all the children are in love with books. And this is another special things about these books. The author is full wisdom and quotes about how amazing books and libraries are.
And yes, as is described in the description, the book is rather dark. The orphans never have it easy. However, the humor in here is never endless. I particularly loved all the moments when Sunny (the baby) would say something in gibberish/baby talk, but then the narrator would explain what she was actually saying (sometimes in many sentences). There’s a lot to these books. Also, there’s the fantastic narrator. Lemony Snicket is so interesting and mysterious. I remember needing to know more about him as the books went on. And I already feel that way now just after book 1.
I can’t wait to start book 2 on audio. I already requested it from my library, and I’m sure I’ll delve into it soon. As far as this first book goes, I give it a 10/10. I loved Tim Curry’s reading of it. I loved being immersed in the story again. And I’m so excited for more.