Monday, 28 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Wide Window, Chapter 1

Not having been 100% last week I was a little bit unsure about whether I would get through four chapters of this book this week. But I appear to have done it, so yay me!

What happens?

Mr Poe takes the children across the Fickle Ferry to Lake Lachrymose to meet their new guardian, Aunt Josephine. He sends them to her house by taxi as she is afraid to go to Lake Lachrymose. The children discover that Josephine’s house is perched right on the edge of the hill over the lake, almost as if it might fall in, and then they get their first glimpse of Aunt Josephine.

Thoughts as I read:

As always we must begin with the dedication at the start of this book. This one says:

For Beatrice -
I would much prefer it if you were
alive and well.

Maybe not quite as rhymey as some of the others, but still gets the point across quite well. As if the last two dedications hadn’t made it clear enough. Beatrice is dead.

We also have the first picture as well. This one has quite a lot of detail in it. We’ve got the children standing on a dock beside a sign reading ‘Beware of the leeches’. The dock also has a sign above it. This is Damocles Dock and just in case that wasn’t enough symbolism right there in the name, there’s a sword hanging down from it, right above the heads of the children. Subtle. In the background is a tall cliff with a house perched rather precariously atop it. Several of these things are going to play a part in the upcoming story.

The story opens suggesting that if you hadn’t read the previous two books you might have thought that the Baudelaires were going to have some fun adventure. They’ve just come across on the Fickle Ferry (apparently this book is set on my little island as our ferries are notoriously fickle in bad weather, sometimes in the good as well) and are going to be living with their Aunt Josephine.

Clearly nothing good is going to come of this. Once again we’re reminded to go and find some other book because this one has nothing happy in it, it’s all a terrible tragedy with their young lives going from bad, to worse, to even worse than that. To illustrate this point, Mr Poe offers the children some peppermints, because there’s nothing as tragic as a peppermint.

Actually, it’s a bad thing for the kids because they’re allergic to them. We get our first instance of the repetition throughout these books and it also serves to remind us of each of the Baudelaires’ primary traits. So Violet gets hives when she eats peppermints, she also ties her hair up in a ribbon when she wants to invent something. Klaus’s tongue would swell up and he likes to read. Sunny, who shrieks ‘Toi!’ meaning ‘I have never eaten a peppermint because I suspect that I, like my siblings, am allergic to them’ or ‘I wish I could bite a peppermint, because I like to bite things with my four sharp teeth, but I don’t want to risk an allergic reaction.’ Or perhaps she’s wishing for a new toy.

Mr Poe reveals that Aunt Josephine is scared of the dock, which is why she’s not there to meet them. Her husband met his end there and so she’s not a huge fan of Lake Lachrymose, understandable really. This leads to a brief conversation where Violet asks what a dowager is but Mr Poe thinks she’s asking what a taxi is, hehe.

True to form, Mr Poe is not supervising them all the way to the loving arms of their new guardian. He dumps the Baudelaires into a taxi and then tells them he has to get to work. He also seems to imply that it’s entirely their fault that their first guardian turned out to be crazy and obsessed with their money, going so far as to kill their second guardian who did actually care for them. I can never decide whether Mr Poe is a good guy or a bad guy. I suppose he’s an indifferent guy which puts him around the same level as a bad guy since he sees bad things going on but chooses to ignore them in case they mess up his neat and tidy view of the world.

Anyway, everyone says ‘So long’ except Sunny, who says ‘Frul!’ which we can assume means the same thing. And so the children head for their new guardian. I only hope that Mr Poe has sent detailed descriptions and photos of Count Olaf on ahead to Josephine so she knows to be on the lookout.

The stores the children see out the window seem… uh… interesting. A grocery store which has barrels of limes and beets outside, a clothes shop called ‘Look! It Fits!’ (catchy), and a restaurant called ‘the Anxious Clown’ which sounds a little bit like it might be a McDonalds in disguise.

The cabdriver informs the children that it’s currently the town’s ‘off-season’ and as a result is ‘as dead as the cat I ran over this morning’. Oh and there’s a hurricane due in the next couple of weeks, which is unlikely to improve the look of the place a great deal. Looks like Mr Poe has found the usual sort of place for them to live then.

Klaus is confused about the hurricane hitting the lake as apparently they only occur near the ocean. I did not know this, living in Britain where I’ve never experienced a hurricane, but from what I remember of weather reports from overseas this does actually make sense. Anyway, Lake Lachrymose is very big so all sorts of weird things can happen there. Oh, and living on top of a hill is dangerous. Got that?

Barely a page later the children discover that the house where they will be living is not exactly the most ideal spot in town. Josephine’s house seems quite small at first glance, but it’s actually sort of cobbled together from lots of random bits and it juts out over the lake. Really safe, especially with the prospect of a hurricane.
Aunt Josephine answers the door and the children all step inside to begin what is hopefully (but unlikely to be) their third and final attempt at beginning new lives:

The orphans couldn’t help wondering how a woman who was so afraid of Lake Lachrymose could live in a house that felt like it was about to fall into its depths.

And that’s the end of our nice short first chapter. They’re going to get longer from here on in, but at least I’m fairly well on top of things in that department now. Check back again tomorrow afternoon for the next instalment.

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