Thursday, December 4, 2008

Book Review Contest: The Wide Window (reviewed by Maliya Suofeiya)

Looking for a horribly sour and juicily funny bed time story? Allow me to recommend you Lemony Snicket’s third book in A series of Unfortunate Events, The Wide Window.

Unlike any other story that your mom has read to you, this book will bring you nothing but the nightmares of three clever and charming orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire.

Violet is the eldest among the Baudelaire children, she is an amazing inventor who ties up her hair in a special way with a ribbon when she thinks of an invention. Klaus, being the second child, is a voracious reader who knows a lot of facts. Sunny the baby has four sharp teeth, and she speaks baby language that only Violet and Klaus can understand. In this story, the Baudelaire orphans have to stay with their new guardian, Aunt Josephine, who lives in a house that has a wide window. Aunt Josephine is a widow who is very particular about English grammar and phobic towards harmless things like telephones and doorknob.

Everything is fine until the orphans meet Captain Sham, who is actually Count Olaf in disguise, in a market. This Olaf guy is their greedy, evil, and filthy distant relative who wants to steal the children’s large fortune. He has a lot of accomplices who are just as hideous as he is. The children informed Aunt Josephine and Mr Poe (the banker in charge of the affairs of the Baudelaire children) about the presence of Count Olaf, but none believe them. Being an excellent actor, Captain Sham appears to be so pitiable and charming that the adults in the story are completely deceived.

The personality of the characters in this story are uncomfortably twisted and exaggerated. The adults seem to be so stupid and naive that the young Baudelaire children appear to be much more matured and sophisticated. The stupidity of the adults can be so extreme that it makes the reader go crazily anxious. So, after going through a series of chaotic and dangerous ordeals such as eating peppermints and having allergic reactions, stealing a boat and sailing in the middle of a hurricane to rescue Aunt Josephine, being “rescued” by Captain Sham and so on, the children finally get to prove the adults who Captain Sham really is. But Count Olaf has already escaped with his accomplice, it is too late.

I just love the way Lemony Snicket expresses his characteristically dark humors. He will always stop in the middle of a suspenseful sentence and surprise us with a whole lot of sarcastic but true remarks, such as the one about business cards, where he says that “Anyone can go to a print shop and have cards made that say anything they like.” He is also very creative in giving new definitions for vocabularies that we hardly encounter in other books. For example, he thinks a “garish” restaurant is one that is “filled with balloons, neon lights, and obnoxious waiters”, and the word “phantasmagorical” means “all the creepy, scary words you can think of put together”.

Besides that, Lemony Snicket also seems to have a deep connection with a mysterious lady named Beatrice, who seems to have nothing to do with the story of the orphans. It becomes more intriguing when we look at his very blurry profile picture (which is the image of the back of a stranger who holds a book) and his confusingly brief autobiography, which begins with “Lemony Snicket was born before you were and is likely to die before you as well.”

The appearance of the book is horrid; it is of a sickly obsolete and dark color that can make your stomach churn. The pages in the book have an oddly moldy smell and they are all jagged. With the comically deformed images illustrated by Brett Helquist, The Wide Window looks even more nightmarish.

You will be kindly reminded not to continue reading at the beginning of this book. This is because, according to the author, the story is so “gloomy and miserable” that no ordinary people can take it. But trust me, The Wide Window is a very unique story for everyone in this world, unless you really cannot take the silly and comical tragedies lightly and laugh at them.


No comments: