“Sometime during your life – in fact, very soon – you may find yourself reading a book, and you may notice that a book’s first sentence can often tell you what sort of a story your book contains.” – When a book begins with a sentence like this, you know you are in for a strange ride. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill by Daniel Handler (Pen Name: Lemony Snicket) is the 4th instalment out of the 13 novels of this series, now made into a Netflix Original Series. The author uses a strange pseudonym – Lemony Snicket to write these novels following the lives of the Baudelaire Orphans – Violet, Claus, and Sunny. Misery and troubles abound their lives after the death of their parents in a fire, and they are continuously subjected to the mischiefs of Count Olaf, an evil relative who wants their fortune. Although the books are categorized as Children’s fiction, they have a dark and sarcastic narrative and have often been praised immensely for the ability to entertain all age groups.
The Miserable Mill (Review)
In Book 4, The Miserable Mill, the plot follows the usual structure where the Baudelaires have been sent to a new guardian and narrates their troubles in adjusting there and how Count Olaf tries, once again, to steal their fortune. The book begins with the orphans arriving at a quaint old place called Paltryville which one can never spot on a guide map, presumably because a guide map would say “Leave.” The spooky atmosphere built up by the author’s artful composition and suspenseful writing adds to the plot, where the children soon learn that they will have to work at Lucky Smells Lumbermill. As if that were not bad enough – things start getting worse! They still do not know the name of their new guardian who prefers only being called “Sir” since people always get his name wrong and come to understand that the workers are not paid properly and there are several other problematic things about Lucky Smells Lumbermill.
Of several themes in the books of this series, my favorite happens to be the contrast of the children with the adults around them. Most often, you see the former making better decisions and being more, and this serves as excellent social commentary. One of my favorite parts of this book is an allusion to J. K. Rowling with the statement:
“A British author was hypnotized with the word Bloomsbury and wrote several books.”
Such allusions and references are abundant in these books, and if you are a literary person, your excitement doubles up when you get the references. The Miserable also foreshadows the next book in the series, The Austere Academy with two students- presumably Isadora and Duncan Quagmire whom they are soon going to be acquainted with. This book has been made into the 7th and 8th episodes of A Series of Unfortunate Events – the Netflix series with minor changes.
This book is the best pick for children and teenagers, but adults may enjoy it all the same for the simplicity yet the depth of it.
Rating – 4/5 stars.