May 1, 2012

[Books] The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 3)

It's somewhat intimidating to consider that this series has a total of 13 books for me to work through and I've only just finished the third one. At the same time they boos really go by rather quickly so I don't know if that sense of intimidation has any true grounds other than the concern that I may work through the available titles faster than I want to. And it's not the kind of quick reading that is motivated by absolute love for the books but more along the lines of them just being so darned short.

Plus there's the movie adaptation to consider and how that may have "tainted" my experience with these books. While I'm man enough to admit that I only got into the books because of how much I enjoyed the movie, this third book also marks the end of my movie-related knowledge acting as a crutch and thus the new adventure of truly experiencing the rest of the series without prior knowledge of the plot. This becomes a wee bit scary mainly because I have to admit the book haven't quite hooked me solidly on their own. So yeah, that can be a pretty bad thing to consider given the rest of the series looming ahead in my "To Read" queue.

But still, I'm not known for leaving a series of books unfinished unless they're really, really bad. And I don't think this series quite falls into that category - at least  not yet.

The Wide Window is the third novel in the series of young adult novels in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The books are penned by one Lemony Snicket, which is the pen name of Daniel Handler.

After the tragic events of the last two books, the Baudelaire orphans now find themselves at a small town beside Lake Lachrymose - home to the infamous Lachrymose Leeches. Their latest guardian is one Aunt Josephine, whose primary quick is a pathological fear of practically everything including open flames and real estate agents. But despite her many, many, many fears and her obsession with correct grammar, she's still a nice enough lady and the orphans don't have too much to complain about, apart maybe from the cold meals and strange behavior at the house.

But things change when a trip to town brings them into contact with one Captain Sham, who looks too much like Count Olaf in disguise. But as always, no one believes the orphans as they point out who he really is, especially with Aunt Josephine already becoming smitten by his charms, as strange as that may sound. Thus it falls back on the shoulders of our three brave orphans to figure out how to expose Count Olaf's true identity before he manages to complete his plans of getting Aunt Josephine out of the way in order to claim the Baudelaire fortune somehow.

Now for this review I'll break my normal rules of respecting each version of the story independently by making some comparisons with the movie. As much as the original performance of Meryl Streep truly defined the character of Aunt Josephine for me, there were some interesting differences between the two versions that certainly change the impact of things. And yes, I'll try to avoid spoilers.

This was definitely a case of the book being darker than the movie, which could very well be expected in most books. However this is still a young adult novel and at times the themes and scenes can be quite worrisome. After all - these kids are dealing with mortal danger in every title and they're not exactly given a safe and happy ending by the resolution of each title. Thus the tension sort of remains high from book to book, probably until the very end of things.

I was a tad disappointed to see that the big sequence involving the house that was so memorable in the movie was absent from the book. I had first thought that was surely something that the movie producers decided to keep intact during the translation process, hence the surprise that it wasn't in the book at all. This was clearly a case of the Hollywood folks having better sensibilities for what might work versus the author himself. Rare, but it does happen.

I don't quite get how Aunt Josephine could go from being afraid of everyone to quickly falling for Count Olaf's odd charms. As much as he's supposed to be an actor, I don't think it has ever been established that he's particularly good at it. And you'd think that being afraid of almost everything would lead to her having a healthy dose of paranoia when it comes to strangers as well. So yeah, this was one aspect to things that we as readers are just made to accept at face value instead of it making sense in the greater scheme of things. Oh well.

The Wide Window is still a good book, but one that truly crosses into that darker territory of the franchise where you wonder if this is really something you want your kids to read. Thankfully I'm not a kid, so I get to rate this book a decent 3.5 crazy fears Aunt Josephine manifests out of a possible 5.

Enhanced by Zemanta