Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Wide Window, Chapter 2

I should really be finishing off my last few moustaches right now seeing as I need all of them first thing tomorrow, but reading never hurt anybody, right?

What Happens?

Aunt Josephine gives the children a tour of their new home, warning them about the inherent dangers of everyday household items. In their rooms she gives them each a gift which don’t really appeal to their recipients; Violet gets a doll, Klaus a train set and Sunny a rattle. They then have tea in the form of cold cucumber soup and learn a little about Ike, Josephine’s husband. She then shows them her library where the wide window is situated and warns the Baudelaires about Lachrymose Leeches which prey on people who go swimming less than an hour after they’ve eaten, like her husband.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter gives us a much closer look at Aunt Josephine’s house balanced on the very edge of the cliff. Very little of the house is actually on the hill, most of it is balanced on very unstable looking stilts reaching right down the side of the hill. Oh and we can see the wide window of the title. It takes up virtually a whole wall on the side of the building and you can see what looks like lots and lots of bookshelves in it. You can’t help but wonder whether Mr Poe actually looked at the home he’d be sending the children to, surely that house can’t be safe.

Aunt Josephine is, how shall we put this, a little bit quirky. The first thing she does on welcoming the Baudelaires to her home is to warn them about the radiator which is never used for fear of it exploding. This not the only thing she is afraid of. Other warnings are applied to the doormat which someone might slip on and injure themselves, and the sofa which could crush a person if it fell on them. Oh, and the telephone isn’t used unless absolutely necessary in case it electrocutes them.

I wouldn’t have thought it possible for there to be a person crazier than Count Olaf but it seems that Mr Poe has found her!

Violet and Klaus try to reassure Josephine about the telephone, Klaus having read about them and Violet invented one, but nothing works. Not even Sunny’s offer of “Delmo!” meaning ‘If you wish, I will bite the telephone to show you that it’s harmless.’

Josephine picks up on Sunny’s random word and points out that this isn’t in fact a real word. When Klaus explains it’s baby talk Sunny objects with “Grun!” meaning ‘I object to your calling it baby talk!’ Clearly she knows what she’s saying. This is important for Aunt Josephine, however, because she is the Naziest of Grammar Nazis.

I mean, I like correct English as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t ever go so far as to describe Grammar as the ‘greatest joy in my life’. Josephine does though, therefore helping to cement her crazy status just a little more firmly. And then she warns them against doorknobs just in case they shatter. O.o

At least Josephine is somewhat prepared for the children. She has beds and a crib for them, much better than Olaf, even if they are sharing a room. She has bizarrely left a pile of tin cans in there as well. I’m immediately reminded of the pile of rocks in their room from the first book. I’m also wondering why she would leave something clearly dangerous in a children’s bedroom, the insides of those things are sharp!

And the woman is trying. There are trunks at the end of the beds and she tells them that there’s a present for each of them in there. Aw, that’s a nice touch. Violet gets a dress up doll named Pretty Penny, Klaus a model train set and Sunny a rattle. None of these things are particularly interesting to the children, but they are polite enough about receiving the gifts. I can’t really fault Josephine here, I mean, she’s trying after all. It’d be really hard to buy a gift for a child you’ve never met, let alone three, and I doubt whether Mr Poe could’ve given her much information about the children’s likes and dislikes (beyond the fact that they’re not overly fond of that guy named Olaf).

Klaus does ask what the tin cans are for. Apparently they’re Josephine’s burglar detection system. Anyone breaking in will fall over them, thus waking the sleeping inhabitants up. Violet mentions the fact that she’d rather sleep through a burglary rather than be woken up and find herself face-to-face with an angry burglar, the prospect of which really freaks out Josephine. Oh dear.

The children then divide up their new toys; Sunny gets the doll (to bite, of course), Violet gets the train set to take apart and Klaus is left with a rattle. When Violet voices the fact that this isn’t very fair, Sunny responds with “Schu!” Perhaps her way of exclaiming ‘Foot!’ although we’re told this means ‘It’s been a long time since anything in our lives has felt fair.’ But the kids are kind-hearted souls and decide that Josephine obviously means well so they shouldn’t complain. Even Sunny chips in with “Twee!” meaning ‘Both of you are right. We shouldn’t complain.”

Klaus walked over to the window and looked out at the darkening landscape. The sun was beginning to set over the inky depths of Lake Lachrymose, and a cold evening wind was beginning to blow. Even from the other side of the glass Klaus could feel a small chill. “I want to complain, anyway,” he said.

Poor Klaus.

For tea they have soup. Not hot soup of course, because to make hot soup Josephine would have to turn the stove on and it might catch fire. I think I’ve just solved the mystery of where this series is taking place. They’re obviously in The Sims!

Snicket spends half a paragraph expounding the good qualities of cold cucumber soup, mentioning in passing time spent in Egypt and a friend who works as a snake charmer. The gist is that there is a time and a place for cold cucumber soup, such as Egypt, not in a chilly house on a cold night.

Conversation turns to Josephine’s husband, with whom she never had children. Anyone care to guess why? Obviously, she was scared of that too. Actually, I don’t blame her, the thought of having children is a little bit scary. Anyway, her husband Ike was a wonderful man who, like Josephine, loved grammar, and like Mrs Baudelaire could whistle with crackers in his mouth. This reveals that Ike was a relative of Mrs Baudelaire, so Aunt Josephine is an aunt by marriage. Not sure if that’s particularly relevant unless someone’s trying to draw a family tree or something.

The loss of Ike meant that Josephine lost all pleasure in Lake Lachrymose and stopped going down. She mentions books here which Klaus jumps at, asking to see her library. The thought of a library excites all of the children, even Sunny shrieks “Irm!” which I think means that she’s full up.

I love the sound of the library. It’s far too long a description to type out here but it’s basically oval shape and filled with grammar books. I’m not so fussed about all the grammar stuff, but I’m sure there’d be some interesting linguistics books mixed in there somewhere. The bookshelves fit perfectly against the walls and there are even comfy chairs in the middle of the room. Oh, and there’s the Wide Window as well. It goes from one side of the room to the other, floor to ceiling, with a view across the Lake. That might make me a bit queasy actually considering just where the house is built.

We’re also told here that Lake Lachrymose is home to a peculiar species of leech; Lachrymose Leeches. You have to wait at least one hour after eating before entering the water otherwise they’ll attack you. Sunny’s response is much the same as mine, “Swoh!” well, not that bit, this bit: ‘Why in the world would you go swimming in a lake full of leeches?”

I couldn’t help but giggle when I read Josephine’s thoughts on the afterlife:

“It’s just that I prefer to think of Ike in other ways. Ike always loved the sunshine, and I like to imagine that wherever he is now, it’s as sunny as can be. Of course, nobody knows what happens to you after you die, but it’s nice to think of my husband someplace very, very hot, don’t you think?”

I can’t be the only one who reads that description and thinks of hell, right?

Violet and Klaus suggest that Josephine might like to move someplace that doesn’t make her feel quite so sad but she couldn’t possibly do that. Reasonable reasons for that might be because there are too many happy memories in the place, or that she couldn’t sell the house because it’s teetering on the edge of a cliff on freaking stilts, but those are obviously way too easy for Josephine. No, she can’t move because she’s afraid of realtors.

I like the paragraph that follows talking about rational and irrational fears, pointing out things that it’s okay to be afraid of (like Count Olaf and monsters under the bed) as well as things it’s not okay to be afraid of (like lemon meringue pie or realtors). And now the Baudelaires can’t help but feel a sense of fear because they’re just waiting for the next unfortunate event to catch up with them. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long.

This was a really long chapter for so early in the book. I actually put off reading it sooner because it seemed so long and I thought it would take me ages to get through. Then on Sunday we had issues with the internet and I couldn’t do all the online and bloggy stuff that I’d planned to do, so I read this chapter instead. And it didn’t take that long to get through after all.

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