I read some superlative reviews of the new Netflix version of A Series Of Unfortunate Events, and found a copy of The Bad Beginning on my shelves. I used to buy the first book in a series that all the Avid Readers were pouring over for my son, thinking he might also like them. Some he did, some not.
Although the book is easy reading, I loved that it was filled with vocabulary, both the word itself and an arch description of what it really means. Seldom do you read a book with so many words describing villainy in so many ways.
The way these children loved books and libraries and reading endeared them to me immediately. Their own home “had an enormous library…a room filled with thousands of books on nearly every subject”.
Moving to the dirty, depressing home of their relation Count Olaf, they’re without books entirely in addition to the other privations of life with Olaf. Klaus says “I miss reading very much. We must go out and look for a library sometime soon.”
Next door lives a Judge who agrees to lend them a cookbook for a large dinner they’re to prepare. She has an entire cookbook section in her library. “There were shelves and shelves of them, on every wall from the floor to the ceiling, and separate shelves of them in the middle of the room. The only place there weren’t books was in one corner, where there were some large, comfortable-looking chairs and a wooden table with lamps hanging over them, perfect for reading.” Paradise! Particularly compared to the barren squalor they now lived in. They’re invited to borrow books at any time, which gives them a bit of happiness to hold onto.
The book contains a great deal of absurdity, beginning with every single thing about Olaf, continuing with a man with two hooks for hands, a banker who loves their fortune and vows to protect it while offering them nothing to hold onto, and a baby in a birdcage hanging in a tower window.
I understand after reading The Bad Beginning why the Avid Readers who came to the library loved these.