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The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate…

The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) (original 2004; edition 2004)

by Lemony Snicket

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4,82259959 (3.85)42
Much better than most of the previous installments. Even though the Baudelaires don't really make much progress in solving the central mysteries that permeate their lives, we're given enough hints and clues to feel like we're *almost* able to piece everything together... maybe just one more clue... which of course is what keeps us listening. This book also recaptures a sense of action, of movement, out of the previous books that had seemed to stagnate. There's also some of the more legitimately emotionally-involving scenes of the entire series... no one really thinks any of the Baudelaires are going to die (not with two books left to go), but Sunny's peril and her siblings' reactions in this book feel much more immediate and truly dangerous than most of the siblings' previous peril. Also interesting is the further development of some moral ambiguity... we start questioning whether the difference between good and evil is really as distinct as it might seem in earlier, younger books. Overall, it's nice to see these books back to form. ( )
2 vote fyrefly98 | Jan 27, 2007 |
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audio book is a great vacation "read" for the whole family ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
The troubles continue for the Baudelaires. I was annoyed that the didn't ask the hook handed man if Olaf treated him better than his step-father. I liked the description of Carmeltia as the ultimate girly fantasy - a tap-dancing, ballerina fairy princess veterinarian. ( )
  nx74defiant | Jan 23, 2016 |
I’m listening to this as read by Tim Curry, which is all things awesome. However: if you’re doing the same, you might want to grab a physical copy long enough to look at the last several pages. Snicket includes six “To My Kind Editor” letters, and Curry doesn’t read them. Which is not his fault, because nothing is his fault, because Tim Curry is a rock god and if you don’t understand that you need to leave my house right now.

The reason Curry doesn’t read these letters is because he can’t. No, he didn’t contract illiteracy after finishing the main text. He can’t read these letters aloud because he can’t do them justice in an audible-book format. The letters aren’t complete. They’re typed on “Hotel Denouement” letterhead, and they’re torn from top to bottom, with only the left halves surviving. And “half” is too generous a term for the last one. But they’re fun to puzzle over. So be sure to check these fragments out.

Let me again express my surprise at how the “Unfortunate Events” books not only defy the general fate of sequels (hint: suckage), but actually improve as the series goes on. The characters deepen. The children grapple with moral as well as physical perils. And the literary references become more subtle and complex.

I won’t say much about the plot because first, it’s been expertly summarized in other reviews; second, if you’re familiar with the series you don’t need me to, and if you’re not, you should start with the first book, not the 11th; and third, I still have a bad headache from this lousy month-long cold, and summarizing sounds suspiciously like work. Work that involves my brain, which is in my head, which hurts.

Instead, I’d like to mention something I was grateful to find in this book.

My niece died when I was a teenager. She was only a few months old. I haven't come to terms with that. I’ve gotten on with my life, of course, but it’s always a shock that someone so small could cast so big a shadow.

One thing I’ve often thought about is that a too-early death robs its victim of two lives. The first is the nebulous, hypothetical, artificially bright life they would have had: the future they’ve been deprived of, the work and love they might have engaged in.

The second, though, is the life they already had. A chunk of their identity drops away. That piece of their self is every bit as true and important as every other aspect of their personality, but it’s buried first and deepest.

I’m talking about their flaws. We are so reluctant to allow our dead to be their own imperfect selves. It’s too painful – and to be fair, it feels too cruel – to acknowledge that the lost loved one was, say, sometimes irritable and occasionally unkind, or had a habit of grabbing the first and the best for themselves.

My niece didn’t have time to be anything but an infant, of course. But I’ve found myself trying to acknowledge her humanity by wondering if she would have been a bratty, fashion-conscious teenager who rolled her eyes at my lame apparel. Or maybe she would have been polite enough not to say that the things I enjoy – writing, reading, baking all day – might have been boring to her. We might have gone through some thorny patches, as her mother and I certainly have.

She should have had the chance to be an ordinary human being, is what I’m saying. She should have had a life. And in the course of that life, it’s pretty much guaranteed that she would have been bitchy sometimes. Or rude. Mean to people now and then. Maybe stupid enough to text and drive. Also beautiful (her parents are gorgeous) and intelligent (her mother’s brilliant) and probably artistic (I’m the only one she’s related to who fails in that department).

She doesn’t get to be a whole person any more. She lost out on the years she should have had; and because she died far too young, she’s been elected to sainthood. Many people have. And that isn’t fair to anyone.

This kind of thought is why this passage from The Grim Grotto means a lot to me:

Everyone yells, of course, from time to time, but the Baudelaire children did not like to think about their parents yelling, particularly now that they were no longer around to apologize or explain themselves. It is often difficult to admit that someone you love is not perfect, or to consider aspects of a person that are less than admirable. To the Baudelaires it felt almost as if they had drawn a line after their parents died – a secret line in their memories, separating all the wonderful things about the Baudelaire parents from the things that perhaps were not quite so wonderful. Since the fire, whenever they thought of their parents, the Baudelaires never stepped over this secret line, preferring to ponder the best moments the family had together rather than any of the times when they had fought, or been unfair or selfish. But now, suddenly, in the gloom of the Gorgonian Grotto, the siblings had stumbled across that line and found themselves thinking of that angry afternoon in the library, and in moments other angry afternoons and evenings had occurred to them until their brains were lousy with memories of all stripes, a phrase which here means "both good and bad." It gave the siblings a queasy feeling to cross this line in their memories, and admit that their parents were sometimes difficult, and it made them feel all the queasier to realize they could not step back, and pretend they had never remembered these less-than-perfect moments, any more than they could step back in time, and once again find themselves safe in the Baudelaire home, before fire and count Olaf had appeared in their lives.

The Grim Grotto, quite aside from being an action-packed story, also gives a lot of troubling thought to the idea that those we love are not always perfect, anymore than we ourselves are. And it ends on a cliffhanger, so have the next book at hand before you finish this one. You’ll want to jump right to it. ( )
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
This is honestly one of my favorite Unfortunate Events books in a long time. This book is positively eerie, creepy, and terrifying. Something about undersea adventures just creeps me out, and it's a fear that I believe is somewhat universal. Plus, an extremely dangerous and unpredictable mushroom... it all combines to make a chilling adventure.

Plus, this book really explores humanity and how people are not necessarily black and white like the Baudelaires first believed it to be. The hook-handed man describes people like a salad, with all kinds of stuff in it -- not just good or evil. The orphans even experience it firsthand.

To add to it, the mysteries get even deeper. Lemony Snicket somehow is able to keep adding more and more questions without disregarding the old questions. He doesn't outright answer hardly any of the questions that have been asked in past novels, and yet somehow they get answered anyway.

And let's not forget Sunny. Lovely Sunny. ( )
  BrynDahlquis | Apr 2, 2015 |
You will not hesitate to love this book in the series!
There is so much mystery being uncovered that it's just a constant roller coaster ride -- a term used here, which means, so many twists and turns that you'll just keep right on rolling along with the story!

It's so awesome :-)

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Dec 27, 2014 |
The 11th book in the Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto discloses that the Baudelaires are just one in a whole line-up of families who are or were members of the VFD and that the schism in the organization is the cause of much of the trouble that the Baudelaires encounter. How benevolent was the original VFD? Who is on what side? Even their supposed allies can switch sides suddenly. On the bright side, Sunny is becoming quite resourceful and eloquent. Can't wait to finish the series and have all questions answered. ( )
  Marse | Jul 6, 2014 |
One of the more unusual books in the series, finally Olaf has stopped with disguises and we are finally getting some more information on VFD, I swear the author has us on a drip-feed. ( )
  katie1802 | May 10, 2014 |
The unfortunate saga surges forward; this time, underwater. At the end of the last book, the Baudelaire children were being carried helplessly down the Stricken Stream after narrowly escaping Olaf's clutches yet again. This new entry in the series picks up at the moment the last book stops, with the three siblings clutching a toboggan that is recklessly plunging down the river. Their desperate situation takes a turn for the better, though, when they bump into a periscope and are admitted to the Queequeg, a submarine manned by members of the V.F.D. Captain Widdershins ushers them into the main hall of the vessel, where they meet his stepdaughter, Fiona, and a familiar friendly face - Phil from the lumber mill. They are all wearing waterproof suits sporting the profile of Herman Melville, and the Baudelaires step into their own suits, complete with old-fashioned diving helmets.

In recent books in the series, the roles have changed for the children. Instead of fighting to escape and flee from the bad situations Olaf forces upon them, they are now on the offence, working to thwart the villainous people and be in charge of their destiny. The position holds true here. The siblings welcome the chance to join Widdershins and his crew in the search for the mysterious sugar bowl. Captain Widdershins knows why this bowl is so important, but he won't tell the children, because some secrets are too terrible to know. The Baudelaires do know that Olaf and Esme want it, though, and this is incentive enough to find it first. Klaus uses his knowledge of tidal charts to help Fiona track a course for where the sugar bowl could have gone, and the ship heads towards the grim grotto, an underwater cave located adjacent to a facility that was once run by the V.F.D. (before being burned to the ground, of course).

When the submarine can't proceed further in the narrowing tunnel, the children disembark in their diving suits. They float through an underwater passage, carried by the same current that theoretically carried the destination to the same location soon to welcome them. They wash up on a beach, and as if a dry beach in an underwater grotto was not eerie enough, this one has three lamps bearing the letters V.F.D. and an assortment of sea borne debris. The children begin to sift through the accumulation, and although they find several intriguing clues, the sugar bowl is absent. Eventually, after barely escaping death by the highly toxic medusoid mycelium mushroom, they swim back to the submarine, only to discover that Captain Widdershins and Phil are gone. Before they can digest this awful turn of events, an even more horrible reversal occurs, as Olaf sneaks up on them in his octopus submarine and takes them captive.

The day only gets worse for the Baudelaires. Fiona recognizes the hook-handed man; he is her long lost brother, Ferdinand. With the abandonment (as she supposes) of her stepfather, and the reunion with her brother, Fiona switches sides. Her betrayal saddens Violet and Sunny, and shocks Klaus, who was developing a deeper attachment to her. She is not excited about her new allegiance, though, and helps the Baudelaires to escape back to the Queequeg. They find a telegram from Quigly, and decode the verse fluctuation (messages hidden in poetry) to discover a secret meeting spot. The book ends with them landing on Briny Beach, for the second time in the series after its tragic setting at the start of it all, and meeting an adult who might finally help them in their unfortunate cycle.

As the series nears its end, the books are getting larger, but the entertainment is high enough that I appreciate the extra pages. Snicket started with an original concept, darkly funny but a bit limited, and in ensuing books has developed a complicated plot and nuanced world mythos that is very compelling. The history of the V.F.D. is alluring, and the sugar bowl is completely mysterious. The plot is clearly drawing ever tighter as it heads to the big confrontation, and I am eager for the moment. The Baudelaires are evolving into stronger and more complex characters. Violet and Klaus have both developed romantic attachments, all three have created friendships outside their small family circle, and Sunny is growing up and has abilities beyond just biting. I really care about those children, and want them to win. This was a great addition, and I look forward to finishing the final two books in the series. ( )
  nmhale | Dec 4, 2013 |
The Grim Grotto starts off wonderfully. There is a good mix of what makes this series entertaining. We're introduced to two new characters—one as hilarious as Aunt Josephine was, the other as seemingly loyal as the Quagmires (and cute too). The conspiracy continues to unravel, Sunny continues to utter adorableness, and events continue to grow more and more unfortunate.

The second half of the book wasn't nearly as wonderful, primarily because the book loses its humor, becomes trapped by the adventure taking place, and relies a bit too heavily on the established formula, a phrase which here means Count Olaf would've gotten away with his villainous crimes had it not been for those meddling kids. Nevertheless, it sets up a nice introduction to the next book.

Despite my waning attention toward the end, I thought this book was one of the best of the series. Mystery, humor, adventure, heartbreak—it's all here. Only two more to go!

A Series of Unfortunate Events:
The Bad Beginning3.1
The Reptile Room3.2
The Wide Window3.6
The Miserable Mill3.3
The Austere Academy3.4
The Ersatz Elevator3.3
The Vile Village3.1
The Hostile Hospital3.4
The Carnivorous Carnival3.9
The Slippery Slope3.6
The Grim Grotto3.9 ( )
  chrisblocker | Nov 25, 2013 |
It was really weird reading this book because at the same time I was reading Operation Mincemeat. Both of these spend some amount of time taking place in a submarine. Pretty funny. Anywho, I'm getting close to the end. I already checked out the next one. Things are definitely getting complicated. ( )
  AmberTheHuman | Aug 30, 2013 |
It's finally good to see things change for the orphans. ( )
  briannad84 | Aug 22, 2013 |
Ohhh, good!
  Melumebelle | Aug 8, 2013 |
OMG. These books continue to get better. I may have to go back and down-rate some of the earlier ones in order to reflect how amazing the later books in the series are. >_> ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
I've decided that this series is too repetitive, and the tone of the books too annoying -- pedantic and condescending -- so I'm not going to finish reading it. Just reading the first book was fine, but more than that was a trial.

(You can see this same review on the other books in this series I have shelved. Sorry. I don't like shelving just part of a series, and my review might help someone... I have more detailed reviews of the first three books here, here and here.) ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
OK, so this one (and the previous one)wasn't that bad. The series as a whole is still an exercise in irritation, but it seems like the closer one gets to the last book in the series, the more life Daniel Handler brings to the books. Maybe he's as sick of the whole thing as we are by now. ( )
  stewartfritz | Apr 4, 2013 |
Z actually screams out loud during important plot points during our Lemony Snicket time. No exception here. As a read-aloud, this was the toughest, only because of the liberal use of "Aye," which is just not fun for me . . . but Z continues to love Mr. Handler and his wonderful way with not just story, but with language. ( )
  beckydj | Mar 31, 2013 |
Beginning with The Slippery Slope, these books seem to be more involved than the previous couple in the series. As with The Slippery Slope, more character development, more twists and turns, and I learned a lot about the water cycle. Mr Snicket would likely suggest that I read Melville or Browning or even Edgar Guest rather than finish out the chronicle of the Baudelaire orphans, but I'm going to take my chances and read on. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Dec 31, 2012 |
A strange episode in the sage, but good nonetheless. Here our questions start to get answered and even more questions are asked. ( )
  benuathanasia | Sep 9, 2012 |
It’s been a long time since I read the first ten books of this series, and I easily fell back into reading this one. Snicket creates a tragic event in three young children’s life into an exciting, extraordinary and unique tale of mystery, adventure and despair.

He continually tells you not to read on and relates the story around a theme. For this instalment our central focus was upon the water cycle which was related to the underwater adventure. It’s interesting how he manages to pair this with the nature of the three children and their journey and he continually reminds us throughout the book of this!

We have still yet to have our questions answered and if not got more than we originally started with, but Snicket’s really holds the attention of the reader and makes the pages turn!

The children are as intuitive as ever, and they make up an interesting and intelligent set of characters. It’s nice to watch the progression of Sunny from a baby into a more able and talking toddler and Violet seems to always be beyond her 15 years in my view.

I found there was real suspense, excitement and with in this story. However some of his continual repetition that created the characters began to annoy me at times, and I found myself wishing they’d shut up. Despite this, I think the book has some very engaging moments, a good mystery that doesn’t really give away the ending and a continual need to carry on and read the series.

The Grim Grotto is without a doubt a fantastic addition to the young adult genre. I think Snicket makes the Series of Unfortunate Events appealable to both the young generation and the adults who like to indulge in the young-adult genre. ( )
  NerdyBookReview | Jun 6, 2012 |
I wonder if these books work as well in translations? It might be interesting to use for studying my German vocabulary. ( )
  peptastic | Jun 1, 2012 |
I'm coming to the end of this long series and I have really enjoyed how this story is becoming increasingly convoluted. This volume even manages to include some fungal geekery! I can't wait to finish! ( )
  martensgirl | May 29, 2012 |
The 11th installment of Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" -- this book titled "The Grim Grotto" continues the tragic story of the Baudelaire orphans and their continued attempts to escape the nefarious plans of the dastardly Count Olaf.

I've been disappointed with the books in the middle of the series -- which seemed really repetitive, with the same events happening over and over. This book, however, is a departure and far more interesting as it introduces new characters and continues with the snarky and fun tone of earlier books. The 11th book (and the 10th too) made me glad I continued to plug along with the series, since I had considered abandoning it partway through.

"The Grim Grotto" certainly feels like it is starting to propel the series to an ending. Overall, a quick and fun read... and one of the better books in the series. ( )
  amerynth | Mar 21, 2012 |
In Book 11 of the series, the Baudelaire orphans are picked up by the submarine Quequeeg, piloted by Captain Widdershins, with his daughter Fiona and their optimistic friend Phil from the Lucky Smells Lumbermill. Dangers abound -- but so do literary allusions and hints that mysteries of the previous volumes may soon be resolved. The villainous Count Olaf makes an appearance with his girlfriend Esme Squalor (dressed as an octopus), and their unofficially adopted daughter, Carmelita Spats -- dressed as a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian. Baby Sunny has a close brush with death by mushroom, and the orphans never do find the mysterious sugar bowl. But with only two volumes left in the Series of Unfortunate Events, things are surely drawing to a close.

My advice to neophytes: start with volume 1, or prepare to be thoroughly mystified. Moderate mystification comes from reading the books in order. ( )
6 vote danielx | May 3, 2011 |
At the beginning of this book I had so many questions. Some of them were and were not answered but that's o.k because even if this book made me more confused I wouldn't care because I truly love "Lemony Snicket's" work. This is an adventurous and mysterious book that will keep you reading till the end. ( )
  KeRo0306 | Feb 20, 2011 |
** There are no spoilers of Book 11, but this review assumes you’ve read the first 10 books in the series.

I’ve been disappointed with the past few books in the Series of Unfortunate Events, but book 11 reminded me of why I liked it to begin with. After this one, there are only two more volumes left in the series, so I was happy to find that the Baudelaire orphans were making some headway in solving the mystery of VFD.

Sunny, Violet and Klaus meet Captain Widdershin and catch a ride on his submarine, the Queequeg. His step-daughter Fiona is both kind and knowledgeable and Klaus takes a particular liking to her. The novel is funny and clever, especially the first half. I found myself enjoying the book much more before Count Olaf made an appearence. His scenes tend to wear me out because they rarely vary.

Along the way we catch up with old characters and meet a few new ones. Fiona and her step-father are great additions to the series. We also get a few more answers and for the first time I felt like we were nearing a resolution. ( )
  bookworm12 | Nov 19, 2010 |
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