Friday, April 16, 2010

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Book Details
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
Hardcover, 162 pages
1999, HarperCollins
ISBN: 006075589X
Series: Book 1 in A Series of Unfortunate Events

Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

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 is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

I saw the movie before reading this book and I believe this is one of the rare instances of the movie being better than the book it was based on. The Bad Beginning tries to be both scary and educational at the same time. Many words was defined instead of allowing readers to deduce the meaning through the context used or just plain using easier works. It was annoying and read like almost like a dictionary in places.

The story itself was bizarre. Every adult character was either stupid, mean or a combination of the two. The overly intelligent children manage to save themselves through exploiting a technicality that was completely unrealistic and shouldn't have been effective. The overtly predatory Count Olaf made me fear for the children's lives, their money and especially for Violet's virtue. I repeatedly got the feeling he had the unseemly plan to consummate his impending relationship with her.

I realize that my objections to this book are probably the work of an warped adult mind reading things into the context of the story, but nothing about this book was enjoyable. I will not be continuing this series.


Lemony Snicket's website


  1. I thought the first book was cute from a child's perspective. Although, they start to get a bit repetitive, the Baudelaire children get landed with another relative, Count Oalf weasels his way in and out-smarts all the surrounding adults living the siblings to fend for themselves. Okay, but not for 13 books.

  2. I love these books, as do my students. I thought that the movie was a sad attempt to encompass the books. My daughter devoured these books-in fact, it is the only series other than Twilight that she has read in the last several years (she's 16 now). My students also love them-maybe it has something to do with the age? I have to admit I only read the first four, but I found them really engaging.

  3. Hmmm... I've held off watching the movie bc I wanted to read the book first.

    I think I'll still read it, but... probably not soon.

    Thanks for the review!

  4. Haha, I thought the movie was absolutely terrible. But we all have different tastes, i guess. I greatly enjoyed this series as a kid :)

  5. I liked these books. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it.

  6. I liked your thoughts on it. I actually enjoyed both the movie and the book. I was sad they didn't make a sequel to the movie.

  7. I adored these books - my husband and I listened to the entire series on audio during a road trip. The first book wasn't my favorite, but as you press on through the series, you get over some of the idiosyncrasies of the world and become mesmerized with the linguistics of the book, which are phenomenally complex and beautifully constructed.

  8. I have not read this series yet, but I watched the movie and I like it. Maybe I'll give the first book a try. Thank you for this review!

  9. oh shame! i LOVED this series, and i didn't mind the movie, i thought it was a pretty good interpretation of the first 3 books. i thought they were hysterical and the definitions were clever. did you know that he originally wrote the story(ies) as an adults book but it was so dark that the publishers suggested he made them into children's books and make them humerous? so you are right in thinking those things you are thinking - your mind isn't warped, just tuned in :-)

  10. I love the series! With its Roald Dahl adult and so many mysteries, it is a great series. I'm sorry you didn't like it.
    The movie was eh, ok. I liked it but not as much as the books.

  11. I'm a grown-up and I LOVE these books. I thought the movie was awful. I found the defining of words hilarious (most of the time there's a joke, not just literal definitions). Lemony Snicket's cooky and idiosyncratic voice is what make these books so great. And the whole point is that the kids are smarter than the idiot adults around them (just like real life).

    Yeah, we should be worried about these kids. Count Olaf is not a nice guy. There are plenty of people who try to harm kids in the real world. We should fear for these kids.

    Too bad you didn't like the book. Everyone has their own opinion.

  12. Sorry you didn't like this book! I happen to agree with your other commenters though, I enjoyed the series much more than the books. I listened to the audio version, not sure if that had something to do with it. I also think that you have to keep in mind that the series is written for a much younger audience, otherwise I would agree that some of what you mentioned could be annoying.