Friday, 28 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Hostile Hospital, Chapter 1

A slightly late start to these posts this week. I sort of ran out of time at the weekend to do everything that I needed to get done and so this was the one thing I chose to neglect. At least these posts are flexible enough to let me do that. I'm thinking this book will take us to mid-way through December and then we'll have a little break from these books until New Year, there's only five left after it and once I get myself organised (and I'm not spending all my waking computer hours churning out NaNo words) they'll come together quite quickly.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires find themselves standing outside the Last Chance General Store. With no other immediate options available to them they head inside to send a telegram to Mr Poe. And then it's just a question of waiting and hoping for a reply.

Thoughts as I read:

This book opens with the regular dedication to Beatrice:

For Beatrice -
Summer without you is cold as winter.
Winter without you is even colder.

That's quite fitting considering the fact that I'm reading this in the last week of November and things are slowly but steadily getting chillier. It's been a ridiculously mild month so far, there are still wasps flying around for crying out loud!

So then we have the traditional first picture of the book. This one is of the Last Chance General Store, which the Baudelaires are currently standing outside of. It looks like a petrol station and it's got all sorts of posters tacked up outside but I can't quite read them. I think one says 'Pig Boxes'. Behind the shop is a tree with one lonely crow in it, a little reminder of where we've been.

And we're thrown right into telegram jokes. That's a good place to start a story. Snicket begins by telling us about reasons why someone might start a sentence with the word 'stop'. On this occasion it is not because the author is writing a telegram but because they wish for us to slowly put down the book and step away from it. This command is obviously optional and we're going to ignore it.

When we left the Baudelaires they were walking out into a flat open plain with no real idea of where they were going, just that they needed to leave V.F.D. in a hurry to prevent their being burned at the stake. They've finally reached something, something being the Last Chance General Store and we get to find out what some of the posters on the outside of the store are about:

... the Baudelaires could see that fresh limes, plastic knives, canned meat, white envelopes, mango-flavoured candy, red wine, leather wallets, fashion magazines, goldfish bowls, sleeping bags, roasted figs, cardboard boxes, controversial vitamins, and many other things were available inside the store.

I'm curious about those controversial vitamins.

Once again we're reintroduced to the Baudelaires and their little idiosyncrasies. Just in case you've forgotten; Violet's fourteen, invents stuff, and ties her hair up in a ribbon when she's thinking; Klaus is recently turned thirteen, reads stuff and remembers almost all of it; and Sunny is a baby, has four teeth, speaks in gibberish only really understood by her siblings and is just learning how to walk. On this occasion Sunny says 'Agery!' which is translated as 'Well, we can't keep on walking forever' so they decide to head into the Last Chance General Store.

Klaus spots a telegraph wire and they debate about sending a telegram for help. However their options are somewhat limited having been orphaned, currently wanted by the police and not really having any friends or acquaintances since they're currently miles up in the air in a self-sustaining hot air balloon. It is Sunny who suggests 'Poe' which is probably the most pointless suggestion ever, but she can be forgiven since she is just an infant. Her siblings are exhausted so don't shoot down her suggestion, though Violet does point out that one of the worst things he's likely to do is just plain cough at them.

The person in the shop thinks that the Baudelaires are 'Lou' which I can't help but read as one of those names that Count Olaf is likely to use, even though it's only three letters long and there are plenty of names of that length containing some of the letters found in 'Count Olaf'. The shop is so packed full of supplies that the children can't actually see who is speaking, and they can't see the kids so continue to talk to them as though they are the mysterious Lou. And that's when the Volunteers Fighting Disease are mentioned.

And this makes the children's ears prick up. It's those initials again! Duncan and Isadora mentioned V.F.D. back when they were being abducted by Count Olaf and the last thing they said to them as they sailed away with Hector in the hot air balloon was 'volunteer'. Sounds like it might be a clue...

This is where the children bump into the man looking for Lou who quickly realises that the children are not who he thinks they are. This guy is a bit chubby and seems to be wearing most of his stock. He goes on to talk about the three dangerous murderers who have been hanging around but he doesn't know much about them since Lou hasn't arrived with The Daily Punctilio yet.

Klaus does attempt to point out that the paper might not be entirely correct, but he's shot down by the shopkeeper who then goes on to tell them that it's quite expensive to send a telegram. This is bad news for the Baudelaires who don't have any money on them at the moment, considering they were only taken into the Village of Fowl Devotees to be raised in return for doing all their chores and didn't earn any wages for it. Sunny says 'Sos!' which means 'It's an emergency situation'. Sos, SOS, get it?

The shopkeeper turns out to be quite nice since he agrees to send the telegram for free, then goes on to tell the children that the V.F.D. never get charged for fuel either, since they're working for a good cause. This V.F.D. would obviously be the Volunteers Fighting Disease and they go to the hospital to help keep the patients happy. I guess Daniel Handler was inspired after watching Patch Adams.

Violet knows exactly how to work the telegram device since she built one seven years ago. Klaus knows Morse code and Sunny just says 'Help!' so the shopkeeper just leaves them to it. Once they're alone Violet turns to wondering about if this is the V.F.D. they have been looking for, to which Sunny replies 'Jacques!' For those who remember, Jacques mentioned working as a volunteers, and for those who didn't Klaus fills us in.

Klaus is pinning rather too much hope on Mr Poe being able to help them here since he starts talking about 'After Mr. Poe' helps them. Sunny points out 'Trosslik' which means 'You mean **if** Mr. Poe gets us out of this mess' which is a very valid point, because when has he ever helped them out of a difficult situation before?

And this is the message they send:

To: Mr. Poe at Mulctuary Money Management,
From: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire
Please do not believe the story about us printed in The Daily Punctilio STOP. Count Olaf is not really dead, and we did not really murder him STOP.

After hearing this Sunny asks 'Arrete?' because apparently she speaks French now.

The message continues but since it's just a repeat of the whole of the last book. Sunny even takes a part in dictating the message 'Uckner' which means 'Meanwhile we discovered where the Quagmire triplets were being hidden, and helped them escape STOP. The Quagmires managed to give us a few scraps of their notebooks so we could try to learn the real meaning of V.F.D. STOP.'

Klaus sums it all up quite neatly with 'We are in grave danger.' This is very true and I'm guessing that this book is going to be mostly about how they end up in even graver danger, because that's how these things work. Klaus's comment does not reassure Sunny, who says 'Ilimi' which I think means that she's scared. She's not the only one, though Violet is rather foolishly putting all of her faith in Mr Poe to help them.

It takes Klaus to point out that until this point they've figured out a way out of every situation they've ended up in and Mr Poe is really useless. Except at finding terrible guardians for three orphans, he's altogether too good at that. This isn't enough to put Violet off. I think the stress has gotten to her and she's totally cracked now.

When Klaus asks what they'll do if Mr Poe doesn't get back to them Sunny says 'Chonex' which means 'Then we're all alone'. I hate to point it out but they've been pretty much alone since that first chapter of the first book when they saw Mr Poe on the beach and he told them their parents had been killed.

And so that's where we'll leave them until next week. In a shop crammed full of stuff, completely and utterly alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)