The Baudelaires continue to climb up the staircase and wonder what their life will be like with their new guardians. When they reach the penthouse they meet Jerome and Esme Squalor who are currently dressed all in pinstripes because that’s what’s ‘in’. While Jerome tells them a little about their new home, Esme gets a call to tell her that dark is out and light is in so sets about making changes to the house to be fashionable. Jerome shows the children the view and they worry about what will happen then they are no longer ‘in’.
Thoughts as I read:
This chapter does open with a picture. It’s a very little square one which shows a coiling staircase which just seems to go on forever. It’s a little bit like one of those seashells with the coils that get smaller and smaller as it gets nearer the centre.
The opening for this chapter is just as good as the last one as well:
In order to get a better sense of exactly how the Baudelaire orphans felt as they began the grueling journey up the stairs to Mr. and Mrs. Squalor’s penthouse apartment, you might find it useful to close your eyes as you read this chapter…
I just love that suggestion. It also made me smile because the other night I was reading The Three Musketeers in bed when I suddenly realised that I wasn’t actually reading it at all. I had my eyes closed and was starting to doze off, so my brain was apparently just filling in the blanks for me. I’m not going to do that with this chapter though, despite whatever Mr Snicket is recommending.
It’s still dark on the staircase and as they pass each floor their hear something coming from through the wall. My favourite is “When they reached the nineteenth floor, they heard a woman say “Let them eat cake” in a voice with a strange accent.”. Along the way they wonder what sounds people outside their new home will hear. It’s been a little while since we’ve had this kind of repetition; Klaus predicts they’ll hear him reading, Violet predicts they’ll hear her working with her inventions, and Sunny says “Crife!” which we can assume means she’ll be biting stuff.
It’s hard going climbing up all the stairs and the children have lost count of which floor they are on. Klaus suggests that Violet invent something to help them go to the floor they need quicker, at which Violet points out that it’s already been invented. There’s a nice little bit of remembering here as the children reminisce about a time when their parents were so tired that they sat on the kitchen floor to prepare dinner, so they didn’t use the stove at all; something Josephine would’ve liked. Sunny sobers the tone by saying “Pomres” meaning “As it turned out, the stove was the least of Aunt Josephine’s problems.” Way to ruin the moment, Sunny!
They speculate a little about what the Squalors must be like, deciding on the fact that living here obviously makes them wealthy, and presumably none too concerned about heights. Then we return to the monotony of climbing up the seemingly never-ending staircase, until at last, at the bottom of page 24, we reach the penthouse.
The door is opened by Jerome Squalor, who wears a pinstriped suit and quickly gets the introductions out of the way and then offers the children a martini. These aren’t ordinary martinis, however, the current fashion is for ‘aqueous martinis’ which are fancy glasses of cold water with an olive in it. Jerome also explains that he was friends with their mother and they once hiked up Mount Fraught together. He’s about to tell them about a dangerous animal which came ‘swooping out of the sky’ when he is interrupted.
And thus they are introduced to Esme Gigi Genevive Squalor, also dressed in a pinstriped suit and with highly polished fingernails. She announces that orphans are now in, which is why they’re able to take care of them now as opposed to five books ago. She also confirms the children’s assumption that the Squalors are wealthy, the home is full of fancy furniture and pinstripes are the current fashion.
During this exchange we get the impression that Jerome is actually quite a nice guy, along the lines of Uncle Monty, whereas Esme falls more into the category of guardians like Sir and Vice Principal Nero. Jerome reassures the children that the doorman has been told about Olaf and has been warned not to let anyone who looks like him into the building. We know how well this has worked out for them in the past, but Klaus says it’s a relief nonetheless.
The apartment has seventy-one bedrooms which means they have more than enough room for the children. Esme is already fantasizing about adopting the Quagmires once they are found to make themselves even more in than they already are. Meanwhile the Baudelaires are introducing themselves and their respective interests, which we already know so won’t bother repeating here. Jerome assigns the children their rooms, allowing Klaus one beside the library (I love how everyone in this series has libraries, technically I have one too, but most of it lives in a cupboard upstairs).
They are interrupted by the phone ringing, which Esme rushes to answer. She’s annoying me already and we’re only on page 32, I’m not sure how I’ll stand a whole book of this! Anyway, she says that dark is now out and so they can turn the lights on again now. She’s off in a rush to brighten up the place before anyone realises that they’re deadly unfashionable.
This at least allows the children to get a proper look around the apartment; everything is coloured gold and silver. Outside the city looks tiny and they can see lots of the places that they have visited before in this series, like the beach in the distance where this whole saga started. Down below they can see the trees which used to line the Avenue are already being chopped down, which isn’t necessarily the most environmentally-friendly way of keeping up with current fashions.
Despite the fact that everything is looking up for the children at the moment, they’re in a nice home again and Jerome seems nice enough, even if Esme is more than a wee bit weird, they can’t help but feel a little bit worried:
The three siblings looked at one another, and then back down to Dark Avenue. Those trees were no longer in, so the gardeners were getting rid of them. The Baudelaires did not like to think of what would happen when orphans were no longer in, either.
That sounds ominous!