Book Reviews

Review: The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events #3), by Lemony Snicket

Image result for the wide window

The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events #3)

By: Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)

Published: February 25, 2000

The Rundown: The Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with yet another obscure relative.  This begs the question: how many heretofore unknown relations do they have?  This time they’re sent to the paranoiac Josephine Anwhistle, whose house is precariously perched above the leech-infested waters of Lake Lachrymose.  Just when they think they’re safe, an old foe appears in disguise.  Will the orphans defeat their nemesis once again?  Does this plot seem familiar?

Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: Violet and Sunny look worriedly out a large window at a stormy sky.  In the background, Klaus reads a book.  At first, it seems like the girls are worried by the approaching storm.  However, if you look closely, you can see that the chandelier is being moved by the wind, indicating that the window is broken.  The suggestion of something sinister is subtler than in the previous covers, and it works well.

The Good Guys: There’s Violet the inventor and Klaus the reader.  In this novel, we learn that they are allergic to peppermint.  This highlights the fact that the Baudelaires are not like other children.  Even their allergies are whimsy!

And The Bad Guys: In this novel, Count Olaf straight up murders a character solely because she corrects his grammar.  He dared to do what the rest of us could only dream of.

But seriously, it’s high time we talk about the real villain of the series: Mr. Poe of Mulctuary Money Management.  Mr. Poe is the executor of the Baudelaire estate, and is in charge of placing the Baudelaire orphans in the care of suitable guardians.  In every novel, the orphans try to warn Mr. Poe that Olaf is after them, and in every novel, he ignores them.  By the third installment, he seems less obtuse and more willfully apathetic.  For example, in the beginning of the novel, Mr. Poe leaves the children at Damocles dock instead of taking the taxi with them to Aunt Josephine’s house.  Later, when he sees them having a severe allergic reaction, he tells them to go home and sleep it off instead of doing anything.  Mr. Poe is as reprehensible as he is bureaucratic.

What a Wonderful World: Aunt Josephine’s house is situated on a cliff above Lake Lachrymose.  What’s really interesting is that it is actually perched over the cliff’s edge and is resting on stilts.  This can be viewed as symbolic of Aunt Josephine’s mental state.  The loss of her husband has left Aunt Josephine alone in the clutches of her paranoia, and she is constantly on the verge of plunging into its dark depths.  When Olaf shows up, she actually does go over the edge.

Extra Fun Special Family Appetizer: It’s refreshing that the Baudelaire orphans are beginning to act frustrated by the adults’ incompetence.  For example, when they are once again on the verge of falling into Olaf’s clutches, they consider not telling Mr. Poe that he is near.  They know Mr. Poe won’t believe them, so it might be better to just manipulate him by lying.  They also grow angry with Aunt Josephine for her perpetual cowardice, and recognize that they are the ones who are the real adults.  Hopefully this is the start of the Baudelaires taking more of an initiative in dealing with Olaf, leaving the adults out of the equation entirely.

Grammar Nazis: These stories all follow the same formula.  (1) The Baudelaire orphans are sent to a new guardian in a new location. (2) Count Olaf shows up and tries to get his hands on their fortune. (3) The Baudelaires try to warn Mr. Poe, but he doesn’t believe them. (4) The children outwit Olaf, and his dastardly plans are revealed. (5) Olaf escapes, and Mr. Poe takes the orphans away.  Snicket really needs to change things up in the next book.

Does it Represent…

Women: Violet Baudelaire and her infant sister Sunny both show cleverness and moxie, using their respective skills to outwit and expose Count Olaf.  The only other female character is Aunt Josephine.  Despite being nearly too fearful to function, she uses her Special Skill- grammar- to temporarily escape the clutches of Olaf.  Points for ingenuity.

People of Color: But seriously, why aren’t there any black people?

LGBT People:  The Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender does not count.  They’re androgynous because they are so massively overweight, not because they don’t comply with gender roles.

The Disabled: Given Aunt Josephine is deathly afraid of telephones, ovens, doorknobs, and realtors, it’s highly likely that she has some sort of anxiety disorder.  The text implies that she was always this way, though she became significantly worse after the death of her husband.  As a result, even though Aunt Josephine is highly flawed, she’s still a sympathetic character.  Then again, her fears are often played for laughs, so it’s not a great portrayal of someone with a psychiatric disorder.

Memorable Quote: “Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do.  But like most impolite things, it is excusable under certain circumstances.  Stealing is not excusable if, for instance, you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there.  But if you were very, very hungry, and you had no way of obtaining money, it would be excusable to grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it.”

Recommended For:  People who like dry humor and watching horrible things happen to helpless children.  Three children are almost eaten alive by a swarm of leeches!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

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