Thursday, 6 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 5

This chapter coming is actually a bit shorter than some of the others we’ve had so far. It has a full size picture halfway through it as well which breaks things up a wee bit too. Just felt like mentioning that, then again, the last chapter seemed long but there was a fair bit of ground covered there so I’m hoping this one goes at a similar sort of pace. The fast chapters seem shorter somehow, that is compared to the ones that rehash things we’ve already read about in several books.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires try to make sense of what the latest rhyming couplet is trying to tell them and share the discovery of it with Hector. Then they have to get on with all the assorted chores assigned to them by the villagers and the Council of Elders. The Council of Elders then come out to complain at them as well as to pass on some new information about Count Olaf. It’s almost too good to be true!

Thoughts as I read:

We’ve got a nice big picture of a broom sweeping up feathers on this page. There’s a bunch floating around on the top half of the page as well but most have been swept into a pile at the bottom of the page. I’m guessing that this will be the first of the chores that the children are given in V.F.D.

There’s also the rhyming couplet from the scrap of paper that the children found at the end of the last chapter. This one says:

Until dawn comes we cannot speak.
No words can come from this sad beak.

I’ll admit, when I first read this book I became convinced that Olaf had discovered some sort of magic that could turn the Quagmires into crows. I began to worry that the books were going to start using weird magic to solve all the children’s problems and that it was going to very quickly jump the shark. I think I may have been reading too much Harry Potter!

The children are baffled at the appearance of another couplet and they have no idea how it could have gotten there. They also ponder just what Isadora is trying to say through these little messages. Unfortunately for Isadora, Klaus hasn’t had a huge amount of experiencing decoding the mysteries of poetry so they don’t have a clue just what she’s trying to say.

Violet points out the fact that the word ‘beak’ must be a clue, after all, Isadora doesn’t have one of those. Sunny suggests “Cra!” which I think might mean she’s speaking with a Scottish accent as this means “She probably means the beak of a V.F.D. crow.” This established they realise that the crows can’t speak either which doesn’t make the message any clearer. Eventually they decide to see if Hector can help them, which Sunny agrees with by saying “Laper!”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gets a little nod as Hector’s response to the new couplet is ‘Curiouser and curiouser’. But there’s no time to actually get stuck into solving the mystery because it’s time to get to work. There’s a bit of a list of chores and unfortunately for them this is top priority over the whereabouts of the Quagmires. The chores do enable the children to try and work through some ideas of what on earth Isadora is trying to tell them.

The people in the town are rather rude to the children and Hector, not exactly making them feel welcome in their new home. Suffice to say that the chores are hard work and the villagers are unpleasant. They’re provided with cabbage sandwiches from one of the restaurants, apparently this is their contribution to the raising of the children. The chores are all either difficult, boring or pointless, like making hot fudge sundaes for the Council of Elders, but nothing comes to them to solve the riddle of the couplets.

The final task of the day is cleaning the massive statue at Fowl Fountain. I imagine cleaning a fountain like that would be kind of foul. This is where the crows hang out when they’re not on the tree or all the buildings in town. It also sort of spits out water. It’s describes as being pretty nasty but the picture on the facing page doesn’t make it look too bad. Can’t say that means I’d want to actually spend any time scrubbing it. I cleaned the bathroom sink this morning and that’s about enough for me personally.

It’s a good picture to get a feel for the village though. There’s lots of stately looking buildings with crow symbols on them and we’ve got the children cleaning the fountain at the front. Not another soul around, apart from Hector whose legs can be seen behind the fountain. That’s what I love about Helquist’s illustrations, the more you look at them the more you notice.

Hector complements the children on their diligence, at which point they explain that this is nothing new; Paltryville’s sawmill was much worse than this as was the constant running laps for Olaf when they were at Prufrock Prep. Compared to that a bit of housework and fountain scrubbing is easy. Plus they’re kind of distracted by trying to make sense of these couplets.

At this point Hector asks them to repeat that poems, which they do from memory. Sunny says “Dulch!” meaning “And we still haven’t figured out what they really mean.” But before he can offer any suggestions for what this is all about one of the Council members shows up to criticise their work on the fountain. Despite being a very nice man and actually interested in the children he’s painfully shy when it comes to any of the Elders.

And the Elders haven’t just shown up to complain about how they’re getting on with the fountain; the hot fudge sundaes were not quite to their liking either. They’ve got a rule about how many nuts they can have in a sundae, shame they haven’t got a rule about how many nuts they can have on the Council!

They’ve also got a message for Hector, but the guy still won’t look at any of them so Violet is forced to take a message for him, even though he’s standing right there. Normally this would be really bizarre but when you think back over all of their previous guardians, especially Josephine and Sir, this doesn’t really come across as being strange to me any more!

And despite the message being for Hector, it’s kind of for the Baudelaire’s too. And it comes as a bit of a surprise:

“Count Olaf has been captured,” she said, and the Baudelaires felt as if a bolt of lightning had struck them once more.

I’ll just be reviewing the one chapter tomorrow, that’ll be posted in the afternoon as in the morning I’m blogging about the first part of my trip to Edinburgh last week.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)