A Series of Unfortunate Events Books 4, 5, and 6
by Lemony Snicket
read/listened to February-March 2009
Since I went a bit overboard with summing up the books without spoiling the endings, I’m putting my short summaries first. 🙂 Like in life, I talk too much, or in this case, type too much.
The Miserable Mill
Themes: death, child labor, working accidents, hypnotism, starving children, mistreatment of workers and children, smoking.
Setting: Lucky Smells Lumber Mill in Paultryville
Characters: Violet Baudelaire, Klaus Baudelaire, Sunny Baudelaire, Mr. Poe, Foreman Faulkatono, Doctor Orwell, Sir, Charles, Shirley aka Count Olaf.
Topic: The Baudelaire children are sent to live at the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill, under the guardianship of a man named Sir. Sir is not a kind man and puts them to work at the mill. The mill is an odd place where the workers are only treated to one meal a day, served gum for lunch, and paid in cupons. The children try to make the best of it, until a certain Count shows up in another ridiculous disguise.
The Austere Academy
Themes: death, unsuitable living situations, friendship, bullying, incompetent adult figures, kidnapping, torture.
Setting: Prufrock Preparatory School
Characters: Violet Baudelaire, Klaus Baudelaire, Sunny Baudelaire, Duncan Quagmire, Isadora Quagmire, Vice Principal Nero, Mr. Ramora, Mrs. Bass, Carmelita Spatz, Coach Ghengis aka Count Olaf, Mr. Poe
Topic: Having no where else to send them currently, Mr. Poe arranges for the children to attend boarding school. Prufrock Preparatory school will be their new home. Boarding school doesn’t sound too bad at first. At least they will be around other children and learning things. But their initial optimism is quickly shut-down when they meet the worlds most imcompetent administrator (maybe, I’ve worked with some VERY incompetent administrators), Vice Pincipal Nero. The school is full of odd rules, the worst being that in order to live in the dormitory, you have to have a parent or guardian’s permission, and being orphans they have neither at the moment. They are forced to live in a disgusting shack with crabs and slimy mold and horrible wallpaper. How will Count Olaf sneak into the Baudelaire’s life this time? After all, Vice Principal Nero claims to have an advanced computer system that will be able to detect Count Olaf’s presence….
The Ersatz Elevator
Themes: being popular or “in”, kidnapping, attempted murder (sort of)
Characters: Violet Baudelaire, Klaus Baudelaire, Sunny Baudelaire, Mr. Squalor, Mrs. Squalor, Gustav aka Count Olaf, Mr. Poe, Isadora Quagmire, Duncan Quagmire
Setting: 667 Dark Avenue, near the site of the burned down Baudelaire Mansion
Topic: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are sent to live with Mr. and Mrs. Squalor at 667 Dark Avenue. Mrs. Esme Squalor is obessed with being “in” and will go to great lengths to have all things surrounding her be in. Unfortuantely elevators are out and stairs are in. The Squalors live in the penthouse of 667 Dark Avenue, which is either 46 or 64 floors up. Mr. Jerome Squalor is full of good intentions, but is kind of a wimp.
As always, Count Olaf shows up in disguise as Gustav, an auctioneer. As always, no one believes them when they point him out. The children go on a quest to find out what Olaf’s treacherous plan is and what he has done with the Quagmire triplets.
~~~~~~The Long Version- With Spoilers~~~~~~
The Miserable Mill, Book 4
The unfortunate Baudelaire orphans are carted off to live with yet another relative. This time in Paultryville at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, in the care of Sir. Sir never gets a real name, because it is apparently unpronounceable.
To their surprise, the children are not just to be expected to live at the mill, they are expected to work there as well, even little Sunny. Even worse, they are allowed no breakfast, served only gum for lunch and a horrible dinner. All the employees are paid only in coupons. Foreman Flacutono has just replaced the old foreman and according to the other employees is even worse than their old foreman. He is mean and cruel to everyone, especially the children. He trips Klaus and causes him to break his glasses. He is sent to Dr. Orwell, the town optometrist. The children are mortified when they find that she works in an eye shaped building, just like the tattoo on Count Olaf’s ankle.
When Klaus returns, he is not himself. He is under some kind of hypnosis. The next day Foreman Faulotono makes Klaus operate the machinery and creates huge accident where one of the workers legs is crushed. Klaus is somehow snapped out of his daze and back to normal. The children decide they must find out what happened at Dr. Orwell’s. When they return to her office, there sitting at the receptionists desk, behind a nameplate showing the name, “Shirley”, is a ridiculously dressed Count Olaf. Still playing innocent Shirley/Count Olaf tells them that she/he told Sir that she/he would gladly take the orphans on since they seemed to be causing so much trouble.
Klaus returns from Dr. Owell’s again and again he is under a hypnotic spell. The girls put Klaus to bed and read up in the poor excuse for a library, the one book from Dr. Orwell’s office. Inside is information about hypnotism. Meanwhile, foreman folkatono, Shirley/Count Olaf, and Dr. Orwell have Sir’s partner, the kind-hearted Charles tied to the lumber equipment. To the girls horror, Klaus is operating the controls, about to saw Charles in half.
Violet searches desperately in her head for the word that might be controlling Klaus. She finds the word and orders Klaus away from the controls, the foreman uses the word and orders him back. Violet has to find the word that will snap him out of it. Finally the words come to her and she saves Klaus.
How will the orphans get out of this, yet again, horrible situation?
The Austere Academy, Book 5
I honestly did not know what the word ‘austere’ meant before reading this book. For those of you like me, it means stern and severe. In this book, the children are sent to the Prufrock Preparatory. The Vice Principal, Mr. Nero, is a pretty terrible man. Mean and taunting to the children. The children are not allowed to live in the nice dormitories because they do not have the permission of a parent or guardian, instead, they are forced to live in the ‘Orphan Shack’, a sorry excuse for a building. Inside there are crabs and slimy mold. In addition, while the academy has classes for Klaus and Violet, they do not have classes for children as young as Sunny, so Vice Principal Nero decides that she will work in the office as his administrative assistant. There are also ridiculous rules such as; if you come to the administrative building without an appointment, you are not allowed silverware at your next meal and if you are late to dinner, you are not allowed a cup for your beverage. Sunny, being in the administrative building daily, is never allowed cutlery. As a baby, this does not bother her too much.
There is a saving grace of the Prufork Preparatory, the Quagmire triplets, minus one. The triplets parents, along with their brother, were also killed in a terrible fire, leaving them a sizable fortune. The orphaned children make friends quickly.
Of course, every school has a bully and this one is no exception. Carmelita Spatz, tries her hardest to make the children feel unwanted. She often refers to them as “cake-sniffers”…which I never did figure out why that was such an insult. As if this wasn’t enough, you-know-who shows up. And if you don’t know who, you haven’t been paying attention. This time is disguise is as Coach Ghengis, the new gym coach.
The Baudelaires decide that it is best if the pretend they don’t realize who he is. This doesn’t stop him from torturing the three children. He sends them a message, through the vicious Carmelita Spatz, that they are to miss Vice Principal Nero’s nightly excruciating violin recitals, and instead report to the field. For some reason, he makes them paint a luminous circle in the field. He then tells them they are to participate in Special Orphan Running Exercises, aka S.O.R.E. They are forced to run, without stopping all night long. The Quagmire’s, Duncan and Isadora take turns keeping an eye on the Baudelaire activities and resting, trying to figure out what Count Olaf is up to.
As a result of the nightly S.O.R.E. activities, the Baudelaires are too exhausted to pay attention in school. They begin failing. Vice Principal Nero calls then to his office and points out that they have missed several of his violin recitals and as a result they owe him several bags of candy. He informs them that if they do not pass their comprehensive exam the next day they will be home-schooled by coach Ghengis and he will be given guardianship of them. Of course no one will listen when they try to explain that he is really Count Olaf in disguise, after all, Vice Principal Nero has an advanced computer that is looking for Count Olaf and clearly Coach Ghengis is not Count Olaf.
Isadora and Duncan come up with a plan to help the Baudelaires. They will dress up as the Baudelaires and drag a Sunny-sized bag of flour so that they can run laps for them while the Baudelaires study. The plan seems to be going well. Violet and Sunny make staples while Klaus reads the Quagmire’s notes and studies for his own exam and reading aloud to Violet so she can learn her material.
Vice Principal Nero shows up early in the morning with Mr. Remora, Violet’s teacher and Mrs. Bass, Klaus’ teacher. He instructs them to start the exam now. They take turns answering questions and get every answer right. Vice Principal Nero is very upset that he doesn’t get to expel anyone. Coach Ghengis arrives at that moment with only Violet’s hair ribbon, Klaus’ glasses and a flour covered foot.
Mr. Poe arrives suddenly as well with several bags of candy and earrings. He walks into a confusing situation. Two teachers, one vice principal, 3 orphans very upset about their missing friends, and one Count Olaf pretending to be a physical education teacher named Coach Ghengis. Although he is slow as usual, Mr. Poe eventually humors the children and asks Coach Ghengis to take of his sneakers to see if he has the eye tattoo on his ankle. Coach Ghengis/Count Olaf turns and runs.
The children see what he is running towards and take off instantly, the adults follow behind. Count Olaf is running towards a running vehicle where two of his henchmen are struggling with Isadora and Duncan, shoving them into the car. Having been running S.O.R.E. exercises nightly, the Baudelaires can run without tiring. Violet reaches Olaf first and pulls off the turban. Sunny reaches him next and bites off his shoelaces, causing his shoes to fall off. Klaus runs toward Isadora and Duncan. He struggles with the women trying to force them in the car, but they over power the children. Duncan shouts to Klaus about “VFD’s”, information that he and Isadora found out about Olaf, and that they need to look in the notebooks. Count Olaf runs past Klaus, grabs the notbooks and jumps in the vehicle and they drive off quickly.
The adults, being dimwitted as usual, argue about what the best plan of action is while the orphans sit, crying in each other’s arms. Yet again, Count Olaf escapes, but this time with something very precious, the Quagmire Triplets.
The Ersatz Elevator, Book 6
Violet, Klaus and Sunny are back in what seems like a semi-stable home. At least they have food and water, rooms, and clothes. The drawback is their female guardian Mrs. Esme Squalor, is in to everything that is “in” including aqueous martinis, pinstriped suits, darkness, stairs, and oddly enough, orphans.
Even though Esme seems a bit eccentric. Jerome, Mr. Squalor, is a kind and generous man, although he is completely spineless and hates arguing. He gives in to everything Esme says.
The children are very cautious, they know Olaf will show up somewhere, but they are surprised at how quickly he finds them. This time in disguise as an ‘in’ auctioneer named Gustavo. He pretends to be from a foreign country and speaks limited English. When the children try to point out the Gustav is in fact Count Olaf, Jerome believes that the children are agoraphobic, afraid of foreigners.
Try as they might, they can’t figure out what Olaf is up to. More than that, they want to find out where the Quagmire’s are. They decide to check out the unused elevator shaft and lo and behold, the Quagmires are at the bottom in a cage. They inform the Baudelaires that Count Olaf is planning to hide them in one of the auction items and have one of his henchmen bid on them. After that, they will ship them out of the country and claim the Quagmire fortune.
The Baudelaires try to think of a way to save the Quagmires. They go to Esme, and tell her the entire story. Esme listens, and goes to the elevator shaft with the Baudelaires. She then shoves the children down the shaft. I have to say, I didn’t see this coming. I thought she would just get tired of the children, or orphans would be out. It turns out she is one of Olaf’s students and has been planning with him the whole time.
Fortunately, there is a net placed in the shaft and the frightened children are saved by it. The Quagmires are gone, and must be already at the auction. The Baudelaires escape and decide to travel through the passageway leading out of the elevator shaft. Surprisingly, the shaft leads underneath the ruins of the burned-down Baudelaire mansion.
Will the children make it in time to save their friends and tell Jerome of Esme’s terrible plan?
Sorry to end these with questions, but I don’t want to give away the wholeending. I have to say, I am rather enjoying the audio versions of these books. It’s like being read to as a child. I was about done with Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler’s reading…he can put on some REALLY annoying voices. Tim Curry is back for The Ersatz Elevatorand I’m told, for the rest of the books. Yay! I love Tim Curry.
I think these books are worth reading for anyone. The story at this point is starting to come together and always leaves you with questions about what is going to happen next. I have the next book (audio version), The Vile Village, waiting and ready to go in the car.
This is a super post! 2459 words!