Saturday, January 22, 2005

5. The Hostile Hospital

by Lemony Snicket

I’ve been reading the Series of Unfortunate Events since the first book, albeit taking my time so as to always have one within reach while the author is busy concocting the next one. This installment of the Series involves a half-finished hospital, a group of singing volunteers, a Library of Records, and more clues to help the Baudelaire siblings uncover the mystery of their parents’ deaths. I really like how the story has progressed over the past few books, becoming more intricate and relying on the knowledge of the previous ones. The first books were very formulaic, consisting of placing the siblings in peril, sending Count Olaf after them, discovering Count Olaf’s evil plan, trying to convince the adults of said plan, only to have the siblings fail and be saved by some random stroke of luck. But now the plot has deepened. There are recurring characters, like Esme Squalor from Book the Sixth. There’s the mystery of V.F.D. to solve. We have to find out what part Jacques Snicket plays in the events. And Lemony has gone from omniscient narrator to enigmatic family acquaintance and I’m just dying to know what’s up with all of that.

I think one of the most fun things about reading so much is being able to understand literary references when they unexpectedly pop up. It’s no surprise that the author of these books is a bibliophile – the quality of his narrative is proof enough of that – but I was surprised by the amount of authors and characters referenced in The Hostile Hospital. There are the Virginia Woolf references, with a patient by the name of “Clarissa Dalloway” and with Sunny uttering “Orlando” when referring to Count Olaf’s associate who looks neither like a man nor a woman. There is a patient named “Emma Bovary”. And then, when Klaus and Sunny figure out that Count Olaf must be holding their sister in the hospital under an alias, Klaus muses in frustration, “After all, Mattathias’s real name is Count Olaf. Maybe he made up a new name for Violet, so we couldn’t rescue her. But which person is really Violet? She could be anyone from Mikhail Bulgakov to Haruki Murakami. What are we going to do?” Hee. Two authors whose works are on my ever-growing to-be-read list. It’s the kind of thing you know most kids aren’t going to get, but the few that will, or those that get it with age, will feel just that much more rewarded when they do.

Of course, it also gives us adults a nice little laugh. And it makes me want to jump right into Book the Ninth.

Stars: Four

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