The Wide Window is the third book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and was published in 2000 by HarperCollins.
Genre: Children’s, Mystery
If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and the one you are holding may be the worst of them all.
If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signaling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably ill you with despair.
I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.
With all due respect,
“This is the radiator,” Aunt Josephine said, pointing to a radiator with a pale and skinny finger. “Please don’t ever touch it. You may find yourself very cold here in my home. I never turn on the radiator, because I am frightened that it might explode, so it often gets chilly in the evenings….“This is the telephone….It should only be used in emergencies, because there is a danger of electrocution….When you open this odor, just push on the wood here. Never use the doorknob. I’m always afraid that it will shatter into a million pieces and that one of them will hit my eye.”
~Snicket 15-16, 18
“ ‘Captain Sham’s Sailboats. Every boat has it’s own sail.’ Oh, Captain, you have made a very serious grammatical error here.”
“What?” Captain Sham said, raising his eyebrow.
“This card says ‘it’s,’ with an apostrophe. I-T-apostrophe-S always means ‘it is.’ You don’t mean to say ‘Every boat has it is own sail.’ You mean simply I-T-S, ‘belonging to it.’ IT’s a very common mistake, Captain Sham, but a dreadful one.”
“It is difficult enough to climb up the mast of a boat, but it is triple the difficulty if the boat is being rocked by a bunch of hungry leeches, so allow me to advise you that this is another thing that you should under no circumstances try to do. But Violet Baudelaire was a wunderkind, a German word which here means “Someone who is able to quickly climb masts on boats being attacked by leeches…”
“For Beatrice—I would much prefer it if you were alive and well.”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
Enter Aunt Josephine, the ultimate grammar Nazi. As annoying and ineffective and ridiculous as she is (another ineffective adult! Surprise!), her grammar lectures are quite funny. Especially since some of them are completely pointless and out-of-the-blue. Hey, we’re in the middle of a storm about to be eaten by leeches. Let’s correct some grammar! It’s not only amusing, but also extremely frustrating, which gives the reader insight into how frustrated the Baudelaires must feel with their guardian. Aunt Josephine is probably the worst guardian the Baudelaires have in terms of ineffectiveness and general likeability. She’s very easy to dislike because she is so frustrating and immovable in her ways. Her list of fears only add to this, because they are completely irrational, and if you know anyone with an irrational fear, you know how much you want to shake them. As a side note, I love how in the movie (yes, there was a movie made of the first three books, starring Jim Carey as Count Olaf. It’s worth a watch as it’s quite funny, but it butchers the books a little too much for my liking, and I don’t consider myself one of those purists types where every movie made from a book must be exactly the same or it’s terrible) all her fears actually happen (albeit when she’s not there; it’s when spoiler the house is collapsing. The radiator hose gets unattached and conveniently ends up right by the doorknob, heating it up until—yep, you guessed it—it shatters into a million pieces end spoiler).
Captain Sham…heh heh. Sham. Ya giddit? Yes, you can bet that Olaf is snickering on the inside. You know, Olaf reminds me of a very evil, cruel Severus Snape, except with less snark and more malice.
The first gruesome death of the series is in this book. There’s nothing explicit, but your imagination can certainly help you along here. At least Snicket didn’t mention any screams…that might have been too much…however, he has a unique talent for making a gruesome death without actually describing the gruesome.
What I Didn’t Like:
Aunt Josephine…I want to shake you! You might be one of my least favorite Baudelaire guardian, although there are a few other annoying ones. Hmmm…now I’m thinking of doing a ranking of Baudelaire guardians along with my ranking of the books. I could do one for Olaf disguises, too! There’s so much I could do with this series, I don’t even know…
People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (beware, spoilers):
–“I didn’t realize this was a sad occasion.”
—Ivan Lachyrmose: Lake Explorer (this is not really that important; but it is mentioned later as a quick aside. It’s one of those interesting details that I love so much about this series)
–also, keep an eye on what Sunny says. It can be quite amusing…
–Olaf’s claim of arson
–whistling with crackers
There is a sign with two eyes, referencing The Miserable Mill.
The Wide Window, while not standing out particularly from the series as a whole, is still a strong addition. It once again shows the Baudelaire orphans resourcefulness (and misfortune) and in doing so creates character development. Olaf is still evil; Mr. Poe (and other adults) are still ineffective; and the Baudelaires are going through a guardian a book. Onward to the next!
Coming Up Next: The Miserable Mill