Thursday, 19 June 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Bad Beginning, Chapter 8

We’re now two thirds of the way through the book and tomorrow there’ll be a double posting of reviews. Hopefully this time next week I’ll be posting the final Chapter-by-Chapter review of The Bad Beginning.

What Happens?
Klaus stays up all night reading the legal book borrowed (unknowingly) from Justice Strauss. He discovers that Count Olaf plans to use the play as a cover to marry Violet and so get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. He reveals what he knows to Olaf, which does not yield the response Klaus was expecting. When Klaus returns to the Baudelaires’ bedroom to wake Violet and explain Olaf’s plan they discover that Sunny is missing. And then Count Olaf appears.

Thoughts as I read:

This picture is of some eyes, but I’m not including them in my eye count because they’re clearly actual eyes which belong to Klaus, rather than symbolic eyes which look over the children throughout the novel. We know they belong to Klaus because he’s the only one in the book who wears glasses, as we were informed way back on page 3 (sad side note, I have one of those brains that remember random things and I knew it was page 3 that mentioned Klaus wearing glasses… I even remembered where on the page it said it. Then I looked it up, just to check!)

Anyway, on with the actual story: Klaus has stayed up all night reading. We get a lovely little reminiscence about how he used to stay up late reading under the covers with a flashlight. This made me smile for two reasons; firstly, I used to do that… in fact, sometimes I still do if I don’t want to disturb Mr Click by putting the light on; secondly, one of the last books I read, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, begins with Harry doing something very similar. This time of course Klaus has stayed up reading a boring legal book in order to prevent Count Olaf from getting his hands on their money, rather than doing his History of Magic homework.

This chapter gives us an awful lot from Klaus’s point of view. I know he’s been a POV character before but usually he seems to be second fiddle to Violet. His older sister seems to have given up and his younger sister is too little to do anything; everything is riding on him.

One of the things I like about these books is the way that they do unexpected and quirky things in the text. Like when it describes that sensation of falling asleep while reading and finding yourself reading the same sentence repeatedly. The sentence ‘He found himself reading the same sentence over and over.’ is repeated three times. I know that things like this annoy some readers, but I like it. It’s something that makes it different from other books.

As I said above, Klaus has decided to take matters into his own hands so when he thinks he’s got everything that he needs, he leaves his sisters and goes to wait for Count Olaf in the kitchen. He confronts Olaf with the book. He’s figured out that Olaf intends to actually marry Violet, using the play as a cover. To make the marriage legal all he needs is for Violet to say ‘I do’, sign something, and have Justice Strauss present. Despite Violet not being old enough, if Olaf, as her guardian, says she can marry then she can. I’ve never really realised all the different forms of child abuse that exist in this book; we’ve had neglect, physical and emotional abuse, now we’ve got forced marriage. These kids are not having it easy!

Klaus has discovered that once Olaf is married to Violet he’ll be able to seize her assets. That being the Baudelaire fortune. Then Klaus plays his hand too soon, he’s going to go to Mr Poe with his suspicions. Personally I wouldn’t have shared this information with Olaf at all. I would’ve headed to Mr Poe first thing to be waiting for him at the bank. Actually, I might have tried to speak to Justice Strauss because Mr Poe has proved himself to be pretty useless so far.

Olaf surprises Klaus (and the reader, as I recall) by not completely flipping his lid. Instead he admits that Klaus is right and invites Klaus to go and wake his sisters. This confuses Klaus somewhat but he does as was suggested and makes the whole revelation to Violet. In the space of two pages we go over everything that Klaus said to Violet, this time Violet takes the role of Count Olaf and points out the flaws in Klaus’s theory. Once Klaus has explained the way around them all he suggests that they should go to Mr Poe immediately. Like Olaf is going to let them get away that easily.

But there’s a problem. The hump in the curtains where Sunny sleeps is not Sunny, it’s just more curtain. It’s fairly obvious what’s happened to Sunny as Count Olaf appears in the doorway, smiling and with his eyes shining brightly.

This chapter comes in at nine pages, which isn’t really much shorter than the others (they tend to be between ten and twelve pages long) but it feels a lot shorter. I suppose it feels like relatively little ground is covered because what Klaus finds is repeated twice. It’s a bit of a set up chapter for what will come next.

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