Friday, 13 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope, Chapter 8

I'm finally back on track for my regular posting schedule for these books. That means that we'll have a second of these posts this afternoon, so check back on it then.

Also, it's Friday the 13th! What better day to be reading A Series of Unfortunate Events?

What Happens?

Quigley fills the Baudelaires in on what he's been up to and how he survived the fire that killed his parents. He's able to tell the children a little more about V.F.D. and explains that it stands for 'Volunteer Fire Department', as well as what he learned from Jacques Snicket and Uncle Monty's library. The Baudelaires are able to tell him a little about what has happened to Isadora and Duncan since Quigley saw them last. And then, in the distance, they spot some green smoke.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter picture is of a hand holding a rather familiar snap of the three Baudelaire children at Damocles Dock from The Wide Window. I'm guessing this is one of the photos from the Snicket file.

It is one of the peculiar truths of life that people often say things that they know full well are ridiculous. If someone asks you how you are, for example, you might automatically say "Fine, thank you," when in fact you have just failed an examination or been trampled by an ox.

I think if I'd just been trampled by an ox I wouldn't be saying I was fine!

What Snicket is getting at is that the Baudelaires immediate responses are not particularly sensible. Violet tells Quigley that he's dead and, as if to help remind him, Klaus explains that he died in a fire with his parents.

Quigley has to very gently inform them that this is not quite the case. It turns out that he was in the library when he heard the sound of glass breaking and met his mother who told him there was a fire. She showed him a secret door in the library floor and went to get his brother and sister, but no one came back and Quigley was unable to get out of the secret room.

And this secret room turned out to be connected to a secret passageway, like we discovered in the Baudelaire mansion. So he headed along it and found himself at Uncle Monty's house, shortly after everyone had left.

This reminds the Baudelaires of the passageway at Dark Avenue which took them to the site of their former home and raises the question of why these buildings had passageways linking them. The children are all stumped. It's yet another question that they don't have an answer to.

Quigley is disappointed to find that the headquarters have burned down as he was hoping to find some more information but with everything destroyed, there's no saying how he'll get to the bottom of it all. But Klaus wants to help and suggests that they pool their knowledge to see if they can figure out some of the mysteries.

So back to Quigley at Monty's house. He found a newspaper which gave him the news that his parents (and he himself) had died in the fire, and that his siblings were being sent to Prufrock Prep. He planned to go and meet them but then Jacques Snicket showed up and told Quigley a little bit about the secret organisation he and Quigley's parents had been involved in. So Quigley stayed in hiding for his own safety. Ooh, it's quite good, isn't it?

Violet asks what V.F.D. actually stands for and is informed that it can stand for lots of things. That's kind of a cop out really. Klaus asks about the organisation in particular and although Quigley isn't sure, he thinks it stands for 'Volunteer Fire Department' which ties in which what Duncan seemed to think it stood for.

So it's a secret organisation that puts out fires. I'm guessing they mean literal fires, but I've just thought that a better organisation would be one which puts out non-literal fires. Like when rumours or scandals blow up, then they go round damping them down. That's obviously not the direction that these books are going in, but it would be neat if they did.

Oh and the tunnels? They're for a quick escape to a safe place.

And then we learn about the 'schism' which Sunny heard about a couple of chapters ago. Luckily this time we've got Klaus to define it for us. Basically there was some sort of split within the organisation. In my experience this happens in almost every voluntary sort of group, it's one of the main reasons I've not rejoined some of the groups I used to be active in. Way too much drama!

Now the two sides are using all the same signs and codes and disguises, except some are using them for good and some for evil (*cough*Olaf*cough*). It was Jacques who made Quigley aware of the Baudelaires and rather sinisterly told him that he needed to find them 'before it was too late'. We don't know what it would be too late for because Jacques then left Quigley and never came back.

Obviously, this was because he ran into the Baudelaires in the Village of Fowl Devotees and got himself murdered, leaving yet another question unanswered. Just when we seemed to be getting somewhere, we're coming up against a whole bunch of questions again!

Quigley left Uncle Monty's house because of two things. One was learning his siblings had been kidnapped and the other was discovering that the house was on fire. I can see why the second might make you want to leave, personally. Klaus actually says exactly what I thought when I read this: 'Another fire'. Perhaps these kids are actually like the X-Men and just inadvertently start fires wherever they go. Now that would be an interesting read!

At this point Quigley retraced the Baudelaires' footsteps to Paltryville, visiting Dr Orwell's office before joining the Snow Scouts to reach Mount Fraught. The Baudelaires regret that they didn't learn all this V.F.D. stuff while they were living with Uncle Monty. I agree, it would have saved some time. I bet that the author didn't really know where all this was going to go way back in the early books in the series so didn't really have a reason to include it back then. Violet makes a good point though, they were busy with other stuff when they lived there.

Now it's Violet and Klaus's turn to fill Quigley in on some stuff. First they break the news that Jacques is dead, then they tell him that his brother and sister are with Hector, floating around the skies somewhere in their hot air balloon home. Unfortunately no one knows where they are, so Quigley is still no closer to being reunited with them.

Speculation turns to where Sunny, Olaf and the crew are. They decide that it's unlikely Olaf burned the place down, so someone else had to have done it, and gradually so that no one noticed. And while they're on the subject of smoke, Quigley spots something coming from the top of Mount Fraught.

It's green smoke!

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