I wanted to outpace our watching of the Netflix show at my house, but we lost a little steam after the first two episodes. I liked them just fine and it’s a little disappointing in general, but good enough to keep going. So here’s the next two books (after I reviewed The Reptile Room awhile back).
I listened to these two books while I did morning chores and then went on a long walk around town. I am on Spring Break and in order to avoid Spring Break Madness, I was told I had to walk or bike around town. These were both read by Daniel Handler, and I was worried because his voice is so much more soft-spoken and non-theatrical than Tim Curry’s and because sometimes author-read books are awful, but once he got to actual character voices he did a great job.
The Wide Window
I liked the central mystery in this one a lot. I thought I was SOOOOO smart when the suicide note was read and I was like AHA I FIGURED IT OUT, which I never figure it out, but then the puzzle itself got so much deeper than simply bad grammar = Olaf. Anyway, I like that the orphans are no longer willing to trust the adults in their lives at all, including Mr. Poe, and they are starting to realize that they have to rely on each other more and more to survive. They already knew this, but when they find out that Aunt Josephine was not only too cowardly to save them, but that she couldn’t even relax her own desires long enough to keep them safe, I felt that was a really earnest critique of adults and selfishness.
My one big issue with this novel is that Daniel Handler plays pretty fast and loose with the Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender. In part, its true that the henchperson’s gender is not the sole source of terror (but it definitely is a source) because they are consistently described as being large and frightening, it’s a little disheartening that they are constantly referred to as a creature. I know that this book is into playing up these kinds of tropes and that it’s tongue in cheek, but still it felt so outmoded as a terror. I feel bad for kids who also don’t squarely fit into gender norms reading this and feeling like the author is calling them terrible and monstrous for something so much out of their control.
The Miserable Mill
As an English teacher, this is my favorite one so far. Sure, sure Aunt Jospheine’s pedantry about grammar is such a clear frontrunner, but the long scene in this one where not does Violet Baudelaire have to branch out beyond her normal comfort regarding inventions, she has to learn how to read a difficult book! She figures out that skipping complicated words does allow you to use context to interpret meaning. Yay! Literacy!
But she also figures out that in order to best find information in a book isn’t always about reading straight through but putting the tools of the book to use. When she uses the table of contents it’s great.
Over all, the mystery for this novel is a lot of fun. The appearance of Count Olaf is actually among the least satisfying part of the novel. Instead, building the world is so much more gratifying. As are the editor’s notes at the end, starting to give clear shape to the larger narrative at work.