Saturday, 7 April 2018

LIFESTYLE | a series of unfortunate events

With the release of its second series, A Series of Unfortunate Events starring Neil Patrick Harris, a Netflix Original Series, is certainly one to binge watch this year! Having read the books previously, and now rereading them following the new release, I wanted to share my thoughts on a series I have loved both as a child and an adult.

As Lemony Snicket himself says, if you want to read a series of books with happy beginnings, happy middles and happy endings then this is not the series for you. What you will read is literally a series of unfortunate events that befall the lives of the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny. 

There has previously been a film made about the first 3 books - Bad Beginning, Reptile Room and Wide Window - starring Jim Carey as the notorious villain Count Olaf, but sadly there was only one made. Although the film is good, the series is far better. The star studded cast is led by Patrick Warburton (whom I recognise as the voice of Kronk from Emperors New Groove!) who voices and plays the author, Lemony Snicket. 

Each book has an onomatopoeic title, as do certain places and people.

The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning is just as the title suggests - it is the start of the unfortunate events that happen in the Baudelaire orphans' lives. Their parents and home perish in a fire, and so they are sent to live with the mysterious and villainous Count Olaf. He will stop at nothing to steal the Baudelaire fortune - which Violet will inherit when she comes of age - so Count Olaf sets up a cunning plan involving a theatrical performance, a judge and a bird cage.

The Reptile Room

After Count Olaf disappears in to the night with his associates, the Baudelaire orphans are sent to their next relative - Dr Montgomery Montgomery, a herpetologist. Finally feeling they have found a home with Uncle Monty, they are told they will take a trip with their uncle and his companion Gustav. But Gustav has been replaced by Stephano, and the Baudelaire orphans think they recognise that face...

The Wide Window

After another unfortunate event with a guardian, the children are sent to live with their Aunt Josephine who lives in a procariously balanced house above the dismal Lake Lachrymose. She has a love for a grammar and an obsession with health and safety - you must never use the door knobs in case they explode in to thousand pieces and one of them may blind you. They meet Captain Sham in a local market, and suddenly the orphans are plunged in to a further mystery when they return home to find Aunt Josephine missing and a mystery note left behind.

The Miserable Mill

Travelling on a train, the orphans head towards Lucky Smells Lumber Mill where they are set to work by Sir (whose name is too long and difficult to pronounce.) He has promised to keep Count Olaf away, but the new foreman, Flacutono seems awfully familiar. With an usual eye building, the offices of the optometrist Dr Orwell, more references to the unusual clue V.F.D., and a hypnotised sibling, can the children help their sibling before harm befalls them all?

The Austere Academy

The children find themselves enrolled in Prufrock Prepatory school where they are forced to live in the Orphan Shack. Here at the school, they meet a spoilt girl name Carmelita Spatz, two out of 3 triplets named Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, and an awful gym teacher name Coach Ghengis. After unintentionally missing classes and being forced to run laps every night, the Baudelaire children are tested in front of their teachers, Vice Principal Nero and Mr Poe. As they try to reveal Coach Ghengis' real identity, he suddenly leaves the school and takes the Quagmire children with him (who's parents are also departed and who also have inherited an enormous fortune.)

The Ersatz Elevator

When all hope seems lost, the orphans arrive at the home of Jerome and Esme Squalor. Orphans are "in" and elevators are "out", but why are there 2 elevator doors on the penthouse floor when all other floors only have 1 set of doors? As Count Olaf arrives in another disguise, Gunther, the children discover a dark secret hidden at the bottom of the ersatz elevator, but once again the secrets are snatched from underneath their noses before they have a chance to help or solve.

The Vile Village

Mr Poe tells the children that instead of one guardian, they will receive a whole village as their guardian. They go to live Hector, a timid handyman, and have to perform chores for the whole village. The name of the village - Village of Foul Devotees - V.F.D. which excites the children! Followed by his new girlfriend, Esme, Count Olaf arrives with a particularly large red herring. Hiding the contents of the herring, Count Olaf assimilates in to the village. But a stranger arrives, with the name of Jacques Snicket, and tells the children that people are looking out for them. When Jacques is murdered, the children are blamed and thrown in jail. Will they escape?

The Hostile Hospital

On the lam, the children arrive at Heimlich Hospital where they meet V.F.D. - Volunteers Fighting Disease. When Violet is taken by a mysterious nurse, Klaus and Sunny must disguise themselves in a bid to save their sister. They managed to escape and hide in the trunk of Count Olaf's car, where they overhear him discussing how he must find and destroy the Snicket File, and how there may be a survivor of the fire. But which fire?

The Carnivorous Carnival

Count Olaf arrives at Caligari Carnival, where the orphans disguise themselves as freaks to try and blend in. Here they meet Hugo the hunchback, Colette the contortionist and Kevin the ambidextrous man. Here they meet Madame Lulu, a fortune teller in disguise herself, who feeds Count Olaf false information and tells the Baudelaire children that she suspects the survivor of the fire is hidden in the V.F.D. headquarters in the Mortmain Mountains. Count Olaf takes charge as the new ring leader and brings in three starving lions who unfortunate are fed by the end of this tale. The orphans are kidnapped by Count Olaf and his associates, but the cord is tethered and soon the orphans find themselves split up!

The Slippery Slope

After saving themselves from certain death, Klaus and Violet must trek the treacherous Mortmain Mountains in order to rescue their sister from the clutches of Count Olaf and his associates. They meet an unlikely yet friendly face, whom they presumed dead, and with his help they attempt to rescue Sunny from Count Olaf's clutches. But they hit another problem - another familiar and unfriendly face who is convinced to join Esme and Count Olaf as their "daughter". After rescuing Sunny, the Baudelaire's and their unlikely yet friendly friend are separated, much to their distress.

The Grim Grotto

As they drift further down the river in the Mortmain Mountains, the orphans stumble across a submarine and are welcome aboard by Captain Widdershins and his stepdaughter Fiona. They explore Gorgonian Grotto for a lost V.F.D. object, but Sunny's life is threatened by the Medusiod Mycellium. The submarine is then swallowed by an octopus shaped vessel, captained by a familiar but unfriendly face. They receive a Voluntary Factual Dispatch from an old friend who informs them they must go to Briny Beach, the place it all began. They managed to escape, and are picked up in a taxi by a mysterious lady, Kit Snicket. 

The Penultimate Peril

The children, along their new pregnant companion, travel to Hotel Denouement, the last safe place for volunteers of the mysterious V.F.D. to gather. They disguise themselves as concierges, and meet another set of triplets - Frank, Dewey and Ernest. Here the children see all manner of familiar faces - Sir, Vice Principal Nero, Hal (an associate from Heimlich Hospital) and they hatch a plan with the mysterious Dewey (whom out of the three triplets is secretive) to retrieve the sugar bowl - an item everyone seems to be after. Whilst trying retrieve it, someone is killed, and the orphans end up in court. According to the law, justice is blind, and everyone must be blindfolded. The orphans quickly realise this is a ruse, and Violet secures a boat which she and her siblings, along with an unwanted guest, sail away on.

The End

The final chapter in the Baudelaire orphans' lives (the book being released on Friday 13th) arrive on an island and are met by Friday, Kit Snicket and the Incredibly Deadly Viper - a discovery of Uncle Monty's. The island is run by Ishmael, a man who has created a "simple haven" where many washed up items are banned. A mutiny is formed, and in his wake the death of two key characters. After giving birth to a baby girl, whom the children name Beatrice after their mother, the Baudelaire children live out their days on the island, caring for Beatrice as if she were a sibling. The ending is left ambiguous, as the children sail away on the high seas - do they rejoin V.F.D to continue their parents work, or do they perish at sea?

Series 1 of the Netflix Original Series contains books 1-4, series 2 has 5-9 and I presume the final series (according to IMDB to be released in 2019) to finish with books 10-13. Keen eyed people will realise that 13 is typically an unlucky number - clever marketing or did Lemony Snicket, pen name for Dan Handler, simply run out of ideas?

If you want to read a series of books with a happy beginning, happy middle, and happy end then do not pick up this series, for it is filled with misfortune, terror and despair. 

But I, for one, love this series and its unfortunate events.


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