‘A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill’ by Lemony Snicket

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‘Dear Reader,
I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all of the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, THE MISERABLE MILL might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and adventure lurking behind every log.  The pages of this book, I am sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.
I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming please feel free to make another selection.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket.’ 

 In the unlucky lives of the Baudelaire orphans, the poor children have gone from living with their loving parents in a gorgeous mansion, to living with a heinous villain in a grubby, dirt filled wreck of a house, to moving in with a giddy herpetologist in a snake themed home, to an overly anxious aunt in a precariously placed house. So, when Violet, Klaus and Sunny move into the Lucky Smells Lumbermill any reader who has followed their tale of woe wouldn’t be surprised to read that their current downhill spiral hasn’t yet decided to take a day off.

Working in a lumbermill doesn’t sound like an ideal childhood occupation, especially when it pays in coupons and only allows you one meal a day (not including gum), but that doesn’t stop the incredibly unavailing and nugatory Mr Poe from thinking it a suitable place for children to grow up. Said lumbermill is even more inappropriate when it is situated right next to the office of a contemptible optometrist who has an unnerving habit of playing around with hypnosis. Especially when aforementioned eye specialist is an old associate of Count Olaf who just happens to have hired a new receptionist Shirley who does not resemble Count Olaf even remotely.

The interesting thing about this book is that it’s the first time the Baudelaire orphans show any sort of discord in their relationship. Here, in the murky confines of the lumbermill the siblings struggle separately to save the day as Klaus is hypnotised by Orwell and Violet and Sunny fight to save their brother and stop the cold blooded murder of an innocent if somewhat useless and spineless man. The children had shown before that they could function separately when they proved their Uncle Monty was murdered by Olaf as Stephano but in the mill they faced an altogether different challenge: taking on each others roles to save each other. Violet had to find her inner researcher and Klaus had to think like his big sister and invent a way to save a mans life in a high risk and high stress situation.

Once again death stained the pages of this grim tale but for once I was relieved that it was Orwell’s and therefore that of a villain and that the Baudelaire orphans did not once again lose another parental or at least familial figure to them. In fact, the only good person who was a casualty was Phil, who I’m sure looked on the bright side that, for all intents and purposes, his sock collection had just doubled.

I really do like this one, and although their adventure in the mill doesn’t really stick out in my mind when I think of the Baudelaires, its still a fantastic story and probably the most optimistic of all the books. Not that that’s saying a lot. In fact, it’s as good as saying it’s the least dismal of an incredibly bleak and depressing bunch- but still, its a sort of achievement.

5-stars

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