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The Bad Beginning (1999)

by Lemony Snicket

Other authors: Brett Helquist (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16,582427208 (3.69)244
After the sudden death of their parents, the three Baudelaire children must depend on each other and their wits when it turns out that the distant relative who is appointed their guardian is determined to use any means necessary to get their fortune.
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(see all 27 recommendations)


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» See also 244 mentions

English (414)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Aragonese Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (423)
Showing 1-5 of 414 (next | show all)
My fifth grade class enjoyed this as a read aloud! ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
I'm not sure if it was the audiobook recording, or just a lack of memory, but this book is a lot more grim and horrible than I remembered.

And yes, I know, Lemony Snicket warns you in the blurb. In the first words of the first chapter. It's there out in the open that this isn't a happy book about butterflies and kittens, but I had somehow forgotten the sheer level of child abuse in this book?

Because I watched the Netflix series recently enough to have that fresh in my mind, I do remember that the rest of the series is a little less disturbing on this level, but I can't believe I hadn't noticed or at least internalized how abusive Count Olaf is to these kids. He's set up to be a villain, and oh yes, he is villainous. From the way he treats the children like servants and refuses to provide simple resources for them like more than one bed, to the physical abuse, to the extreme amount of emotional abuse.

It's just.

Not good.

And I know that on some level, the series is about these children securing their own liberation and taking down this horrible syndicate, but also from a completely different perspective, Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler has made a fortune on a series about children being subjected to cruelty and incompetence that would irreversibly scar them for the rest of their lives. The abuse is sickening, and the gaslighting and emotional abuse Olaf creates is ... just... horrible. And despite having read these before, despite knowing this, it never really sunk in until I listened to the audiobook.

Tim Curry's reading is dark and unforgiving. Olaf isn't a bumbling villain like I've always pictured him - he is sharp and cruel and malicious. From a very technical perspective, the audiobook (even though it's a full cast) isn't great, because the volume leveling on the sound effects and music makes it loud enough to distract (and sometimes cover) narration. But if you wanted a dark reading of this series, you've got it in Tim Curry.

I'm having a difficult time reckoning my feelings about this book. I remember reading them growing up, and I know why Olaf is painted the way he is. You need to hate him. But I'm not sure I can forgive this first book for the way it behaves toward Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. I'm just... torn, disappointed, and a little horrified.

For a breakdown on my rating, and other bookish content, please visit The Literary Phoenix

Original Review (2015): 5 Stars ( )
  Morteana | Jul 20, 2020 |
I had really high hopes for these books, because so many people seem to absolutely adore them, including a lot of people with similar tastes to my own. I was thoroughly unexcited by the first one, though, so never bothered to read futher.

The paper bugged me too ;)
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
Let me start by saying that I am not the target audience for this book. I am older than the reader is supposed to be, and I do not have children that I am reading it to. On the other hand, I don't think that I would have enjoyed this book that much more if I had been able to read it when I was the target age.

Reason #1: I had other, similar books to compare it to that I enjoyed much more. You want a book about children who have to escape from mean adults? Read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. Books about orphans? Try The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

Reason #2: I have never enjoyed people talking down to me. I know a lot of my friends have said that Snicket doesn't talk down to his audience, but all of his dictionary definitions felt very condescending to me -- which in this case means "having or showing a feeling of patronizing superiority".

Now, I enjoyed it enough to finish it (though that took no more than a distracted hour or two). But I won't be reading any more in the series. ( )
  ca.bookwyrm | May 18, 2020 |
This review was posted on my blog, Rachel Reading. If you like it and would like to see more like it, please check it out!

These books were RAVED about throughout my childhood but I never really got into them. People LOVE these books, like they really do and have such a huge attachment to them. Maybe this isn't as broad of appeal of Harry Potter or...I don't know maybe I'm missing something but this book wasn't out of the ballpark amazing.

These books follow the Baudelaire Orphans and...the series of unfortunate events that follow them. In this first book, they are sent to live with the extremely creepy Count Olaf who is a family member. The adults in these books are idiots, and the children are beyond smart and see through his evil plans to get to their fortune.

This book was...not at all what I was expecting. I could see myself as a kid LOVING these maybe, but I was also overly smart. Olaf was so squicky for me that it actually made it physically uncomfortable to read. That being said, I found the writing style interesting, and I had no idea that the formula for these was moving from one guardian to the next. That's what made me give this book 3 stars, because I couldn't understand how someone would want to read like...12 books with seriously pedophilic overtones.

As a kid, I would have devoured these I think, especially where the narrator specifies what words mean and such but then again, I really don't like terrible things happening. This book originally got 3 stars from me, but when I found out it was moving from guardian to guardian and at some point with a broader plotline I decided to read more and bumped up my rating. I actually find that this is a book that parents should read before giving to their kids, only because of the pedophilic overtones, just to make sure they know of any questions that might arise. ( )
  rachelreading | Apr 20, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 414 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Snicket, LemonyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Helquist, BrettIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Curry, TimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Beatrice—darling, dearest, dead.
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If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.
The children looked from the well-scrubbed house of Justice Strauss to the dilapidated one next door. The bricks were stained with soot and grime. There were only two small windows, which were closed with the shades drawn even though it was a nice day. Rising about the windows was a tall and dirty tower that tilted slightly to the left. The front door needed to be repainted, and carved in the middle of it was an image of an eye. The entire building sagged to the side, like a crooked tooth.
A good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.
If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven't, you cannot possibly imagine it.
I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong. You can look at a painting for the first time, for example, and not like it at all, but after looking at it a little longer you may find it very pleasing. The first time you try Gorgonzola cheese you may find it too strong, but when you are older you may want to eat nothing but Gorgonzola cheese. Klaus, when Sunny was born, did not like her at all, but by the time she was six weeks old the two of them were thick as thieves. Your initial opinion on just about anything may change over time.
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When the three Baudelaire children find out about their parent's death they are forced to live with a distant relative, Count Olaf. The witty and intelligent children live miserably with Olaf but have a few tricks up their sleeves. Growing up, I absolutely loved this series. My love began once my elementary teacher started to read it during class time. It's a tradition that I might want to keep up when I'm in my own classroom.
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