Francesca Pidgeon on how the truly bad people are not who you may at first think.
A Series of Unfortunate Events has been
teaching me not to trust anybody since the year 2000. Those 13 books have
been with me throughout my conscious life and each time I read them I find
another reason to love the densely woven fabric of the timelessly grim
In the series, three newly orphaned children called Violet,
Klaus and Sunny are relentlessly pursued by a murderous distant relative and
failed actor called Count Olaf, who wants to gain control of the enormous
fortune their parents left behind. A bumbling Banker called Mr Poe attempts to keep them safe
but refuses to believe the children when Olaf inevitably appears in a
new disguise each time they are relocated.
"The series doesn’t shy away from bitter storylines. Most people that attempt to help the children end up devoured by leeches or meeting some equally disgusting death."
The series doesn’t shy away from bitter storylines. Most people
that attempt to help the children end up devoured by leeches or meeting some
equally disgusting death. The books are best described as neo-Victorian. The
series embraces some adult concepts and it is never assumed that something is
too complex or highbrow for children to understand.
Unlike the majority of children’s fiction, Snicket does his
best to debunk the fairytale dichotomies. As the series goes on, the characters
(‘villains’ included) are revealed to be more multifaceted than they first
appear and the lines between 'good' and ‘bad’, and ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ become increasingly blurred. They teach you to question
what the ‘right' thing to do is and, when you find ‘good’ characters doing ‘bad’
things, whether or not that makes them ‘bad' people. And more than any other
children’s story I've read, it makes you wonder whether there even was a ‘right’
thing to do.
"more than any other children’s story I've read, it makes you wonder whether there even was a ‘right’ thing to do"
Sometimes ‘bad’ people die. Sometimes ‘good’ people die. No-one
is safe from the bad luck that befalls almost every character in the series and
although the children tend to escape any harm meant to befall them, there’s no
truly happy endings for anyone bar the occasional rich fat cat, (as in
A Series of Unfortunate Events teaches you
that institutions are often completely useless at doing the things they are
designed for, that hospitals might try to perform dangerous brain surgeries on
completely healthy patients, that schools might make you endlessly measure
mundane objects and force you to listen to terrible violin concerts given by
the headmaster. That through no fault of your own the system might fail you and
you might be forced to go on the run for crimes you didn’t commit. This series
deals with circumstances that are both really absurd and absurdly realistic.
"The only real evil denounced is of never questioning authority"
The only real evil denounced is of never questioning
authority. The only truly irredeemable people are the ones that are sucked into
a lazy mob mentality and don’t choose to look any closer at an unconvincing
disguise that a child could see through.
Even finding out that Lemony Snicket was in fact a pseudonym
that Daniel Handler used when writing was a seminal moment in my young life.
What was real? Who could I trust? Not doctors or teachers or even writers
of morbid children’s fiction books apparently.
Though this skepticism has plagued me, in many ways I am
grateful that I had these books to teach me not to blindly believe what others
haven't bothered to challenge.
"I am grateful that I had these books to teach me not to blindly believe what others haven't bothered to challenge."
A little bit about the reviewer, Francesca Pidgeon:
is primarily a musician and makes her living playing covers sets in bars.
However, her real creative interests are sprawling and incohesive, tending to
end up a part of her main creative output – her
band Kumiko (see Kumiko https://kumikoknew.bandcamp.com) Francesca
writes, records, orchestrates, produces and performs the music for this
project, and also creates any artwork, videos or handmade CDs that they release.
this is not enough work for Francesca, so she also writes prose and irate
non-fiction (though these rarely see the light of day), she composes for film,
radio and TV and is co-writing a folk opera. She will soon be heading up the
Manchester contingent of ‘Girls That Gig’ which is an organisation that focuses on
supporting women in music.
other interests include learning French at a sickeningly slow pace and playing
and the band played as part of A Little Bite Music at the Bridgewater Hall,
Manchester, 12.30 on the 4th May.