Thursday, 12 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 13

You'll be pleased to know that I'm feeling much better after my cold (aside from a slightly scratchy through, but we can live with that) and I'm able to post this from my laptop, so we've got pictures again! Yay!

It’s the end of The Grim Grotto though we’ve got quite a way to go, it’s another 40 pages until the actual end! Remember the days when 40 pages was virtually half a book?!

We ended the last chapter wondering exactly what Quigley’s message to Violet was, unless you were like me and looked up ‘The Waste Land’ by T.S. Eliot to find it out. The Baudelaires also learned that Fiona was joining the ranks of Count Olaf. Things are not looking good for them.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires convince Fiona to let them go, eventually she relents but refuses to join them. Sunny works to fix the porthole while Klaus and Violet try to steer the submarine out of the Carmelita. They head to Briny Beach where they meet Mr Poe but refuse to join him. Violet reveals that she knows what the coded message was telling them and they head for a taxi, leaving Mr Poe spluttering on the beach. Inside the taxi is a mysterious woman.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter features a mysterious figure wearing glasses and a top hat, seen through swirls of mist or smoke. I suppose it could be Mr Poe again, perhaps we’re having a flashback to the last time the Baudelaires visited Briny Beach. Or maybe it’s the mysterious J.S. who also received the message from Quigley.

Remember the water cycle? How could you forget it? We’re being reminded of it again in this chapter, presumably in the hopes that we’ll find it all so boring that we won’t bother with the rest of the chapter. But we’ve come this far, we’re going to finish the book! This chapter might be 40 pages long, but we’ve got through three of them recapping the last chapter and the water cycle so this might be quicker than I was expecting.

Fiona does at least reveal that Olaf’s told her that once they’ve destroyed the last safe place they’ll go off in search of Widdershins. I know she’s desperate but why would you believe anything Olaf said? Fiona doesn’t seem too concerned about Olaf and Widdershins being enemies, after all, this way the family gets to be reunited. Fernald shows up as well and pours scorn on Klaus’s suggestion that he helped them get back to the Queequeg in return for letting him join them. I’m kind of hoping that this is some elaborate ruse.

Now Olaf and the gang are going to help themselves to anything they fancy from the sub while Fiona is given the instruction to guard the Baudelaires. As soon as everyone else is out of the way Sunny says what everyone is thinking ‘Traitor’ before Violet and Klaus tell her about the telegram, which is a bit silly because if she has gone over to the dark side, you don’t want to tell her where you’re supposed to be going. Sunny adds ‘Greenhut!’ which means ‘You could be of enormous help’.

But Fiona is refusing to leave her brother and not even the photo of her family will change her mind. All the same, the Baudelaires continue to beg her to at least let them go. Sunny says ‘Rendezvous’ which is translated by Klaus as ‘Take us to Briny Beach’. This does sort of start to sway her.

She wants to know what’s in it for her so Violet immediately promises to show her how to fix the submarine, Klaus offers her his commonplace book and Sunny says ‘Mycolo’ offering Fiona the diving helmet full of Medusoid Mycelium. Because nothing says ‘I want to help you’ like offering them a seriously fatal fungus! Funnily enough, this kind of works since Fiona is a mycologist and it would be a great thing to study.

She’s still considering her options when Olaf, Esme, Carmelita and Fernald show up again. Esme’s plundering the jewellery which belonged to Mrs Widdershins; Fiona is unsurprisingly upset about this. As they’re heading out, Olaf picks up the diving helmet and it has to be spelt out to him to get him to look inside. Things are not looking good for the Baudelaires now as Olaf intends to throw the Baudelaires into the brig with the opened helmet. Obviously this would put the entire crew of the submarine at risk as well, but I doubt that Olaf would think about that.

It’s actually Esme who talks him round, only because they need to keep one of the Baudelaires alive to get their fortune, but also because they can threaten people with the fungus to get money out of them too. Never thought she would help to save the Baudelaires’ skins!

This cheerful scene is interrupted by the arrival of a squiggly question mark shape on the sonar screen. So Olaf decides it’s time to leave, very quietly so they aren’t spotted. Luckily Olaf leaves them alone with Fiona, who’s been instructed to take the children to the brig, but she’s not going to do that. She’s decided to let them escape.

What follows is quite cute, not to mention sad:

Fiona nodded sadly, and walked to the wooden table. She picked up Mushroom Minutiae, and then acted contrary to her personal philosophy, a phrase which here means “hesitated for a moment, and faced the middle Baudelaire.” “When you think of me,” she said quietly, “think of a food you love very much.” She leaned forward, kissed Klaus gently on the mouth, and disappeared through the porthole without so much as an “Aye!”

I think the Baudelaires are doomed to be unlucky in love. Then again, they’re probably used to it, they’ve been lucky in pretty much everything else so far.

This turn of events stuns Klaus and Violet, though luckily Sunny keeps her head, saying ‘Correctiona’ which means ‘Fiona was right, too – we’d better hurry if we want to escape from the Carmelita before Olaf notices we’re not in the brig.’ It’s just as well that Sunny is feeling better because without her they would all drown. It’s her who calls ‘Amnesi!’ meaning ‘You’re forgetting something!’ because the porthole is still on the floor. The minute they move away from the Carmelita the Main Hall will fill with water and the submarine will sink. This would be a very unfortunate but unsurprising end for the Baudelaires.

Sunny’s on it though and while Violet learns how to steer a submarine, on the job so to speak, Sunny starts chewing gum to repair the window. I’m not sure that gum will work particularly well in the high pressure environments found underwater, but I’m willing to go along with it for the sake of this story. Together Klaus and Violet work on steering the submarine out into the water. It’s difficult and a bit of a bumpy journey.

They have to step away from the controls momentarily so that they can help Sunny fit the glass back into the porthole. ‘On three’ says the littlest Baudelaire, meaning ‘After I say one and two’ and then follows it up with ‘One! Due!” Unbelievably, it seems to do the trick.

This is followed up by Snicket picking holes in many of the things that Captain Widdershins had done in the past, stressing how wrong these things were and then countering it by saying he was right about some things being too terrible for children to know about. That’s because the thing in the water outside the Carmelita is terrifying and they have to stay totally silent until it passes away.

It doesn’t take them very long to reach Briny Beach and once out on dry land they remember their last, tragic, trip to the beach. There’s a slight feeling of deja vu as Sunny looks into the distance and says ‘Gack!’ meaning ‘Look at that mysterious figure emerging from the fog!’ and sure enough, it’s Mr Poe!

I’m not sure who is more surprised, the Baudelaires or Poe. He’d been told to go there by someone with the initials J.S. though he clearly has no idea who that is. I don’t think he even knows why he is there, but he’s determined to take the children away with him:

You’ve been missing for a very long time, children! It was very inconsiderate of you to run away without telling me where you were, particularly when you’ve been accused of murder, arson, kidnapping, and some assorted misdemeanors!

But the children have no intention of following him anywhere, especially not to the police. Violet has been holding onto the information from the coded telegram for the last fifty or so pages and she now reveals what she knows. They have to get in a taxi and that’s what they’re going to do.

So they walk away, Sunny having the last word (which is ‘Sayonara’). They reach their taxi and find a woman inside (not Quigley as Violet had been hoping). She invites them in and doesn’t seem particularly threatening, especially as she’s reading two books by Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot, that’s got to be a good sign.

And then she introduces herself and we’ve heard her name before. It’s Kit Snicket.

And for once we end one of these books with things looking up for the Baudelaires. It’s about time!

The final picture of the book shows the scene at Briny Beach. Mr Poe has his hand raised, trying to call the Baudelaires back as they get into the taxi waiting for them up on the road. Klaus is just climbing in and Violet will be next. My one nitpick with this picture is that Violet is wearing a dress rather than her diving suit. Right in the foreground of the picture is a starfish and a peaked hat with the letters ‘Hotel D’ on it. Well, we know we’re going to visit the Hotel Denouement in the next book.

I always enjoy reading the information about the author and illustrator at the end of these books but I don’t often quote anything from them, but I feel compelled to this time:

Lemony Snicket has received several citations for bravery in the face of evil and several more for caution when bravery might have proven to be more trouble than it was worth. He was last seen by witnesses who proved to be unreliable and/or of a particularly suspicious nature. In his spare time he hides all traces of his actions.

I think that’s one of my favourites.

The notes to the editor at the end of this book are on Hotel Denouement headed paper which has been torn in half from top to bottom. There’s six in total and the final one is little more than a corner. The bit of text that can be read on these notes suggests that Snicket and his editor were having some difficulty getting the manuscript from one to the other as we see the words ‘third time’s the…’ on the third note, followed by ‘fourth time’s the…’ on the next. Obviously it wasn’t because there’s a fifth and a sixth note where all we can read is:

To my kind Edi
The last saf
laundry or
title of th
Her name,
With a

I’m looking forward to it already.

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