The Ersatz Elevator is the sixth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was published in 2001 by HarperCollins.
Genre: Children’s, Mystery
If you have just picked up this book, then it is not too late to put it back down Like the previous books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there is nothing to be found in these pages but misery, despair, and discomfort, and you still have time to choose something else to read.
Within the chapters of this story, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire encounter a darkened staircase, a red herring, some friends in a dire situation, three mysterious initials, a liar with an evil scheme, a secret passageway, and parsley soda.
I have sworn to write down these tales of the Baudelaire orphans so the general public will know each terrible thing that has happened to them, but if you decide to read something else instead, you will save yourself from a heapful of horror and woe.
With all due respect,
The book you are holding in your two hands right now—assuming that you are, in fact, holding this book, and that you have only two hands—is one of two books in the world that will show you the difference between the word “nervous” and the word “anxious.” The other book, of course, is the dictionary, and if I were you I would read that book instead.
Like this book, the dictionary shows you that the word “nervous” means “worried about something”—you might feel nervous, for instance, if you were served prune ice cream for dessert, because you would be worried that it would taste awful—whereas the word “anxious” means “troubled by disturbing suspense,” which you might feel if you were served a live alligator for dessert, because you would be troubled by the disturbing suspense about whether you would eat your dessert or it would eat you.
It is often difficult to tell if a piece of clothing will fit your or not until you try it on, but the Baudelaire children could tell the instant they first looked into the shopping bags that these clothes dwarfed them by comparison. The expression “dwarfed by comparison” has nothing to do with dwarves, who are dull creatures in fairy tales who spend their time whistling and cleaning house. “Dwarfed by comparison” simply means that one thing seems small when compared to another thing. A mouse would be dwarfed by comparison with an ostrich, which is much bigger, and an ostrich would be dwarfed by comparison with the city of Paris. And the Baudelaires were dwarfed by comparison with the pinstripe suits.
…. “You look like you’re skiing,” Klaus said, pointing at his older sister’s pant legs. “Except your skis are made of cloth instead of titanium alloy.”
“You look like you remembered to put on your jacket, but forgot to put on your arms,” Violet replied with a grin.
“To Beatrice—When we met, my life began. Soon afterward, yours ended.”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
This is the book that taught me what the word “ersatz” meant. It’s also where the mystery of V.F.D starts really taking off, and where Snicket starts tantalizing the reader with little tidbits of information and then either not expanding on them or cutting the person off who’s saying them. Expect to see a lot of “Don’t you know about—” and “What did she mean by—” and “Your parents were—” over the next few books.
References! Esmé Squalor (I’m not explaining references but I’ll explain this one, because it makes me giggle every time I read it. The Squalors are a reference to J.D. Salinger’s short story “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” from Nine Stories. I dare you not to think about ASOUE every time you read that now. Jerome is also Salinger’s first name), Lot 49 (which is a set of rare stamps), Café Salmonella, Verne Invention Museum, Akhmatova Book Store, Armani (a Sunny saying!), “Let them eat cake.”
There were so many things in here that I noticed that related in some way to future books. There was also a lot of foreshadowing for this book, period. The doorman and the auction books are the main things I can think of off the top of my head. Also, Snicket’s handling of red herrings in here is just…ironically, amusingly fabulous.
By the way, V.F.D is now acting as a McGuffin along with the Quagmires. Expect to start seeing it everywhere, along with Count Olaf…
What I Didn’t Like:
Jerome: useless adult #7. The list now contains: Mr. Poe, Justice Strauss to some degree, Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, Charles, Sir, Phil, Nero, Remora, and Bass. That’s about one per book; it’s definitely a running gag. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but I can see the humor in it, I guess.
People/Places/Things to Keep in Mind (more spoilers than usual):
-Jerome and his initials (JS)
-what Esmé said about Beatrice: “I want to steal from you the way Beatrice stole from me”
-Violet’s response to the above: “But what was she talking about when she said—” (cut-off sentence! It must be something important!)
-Jerome’s relationship with the Baudelaires’ parents
-Jerome’s mention of Mt. Fraught
-in relation to what I said about Violet’s response, almost every cut-off sentence is important. So are the anecdotes about Beatrice, but not as much.
-the underground passageway
Last Picture: There is a crow flying, referencing The Vile Village.
The Ersatz Elevator is quite superb, a word which here means “excellent.” It adds new villainy, new mystery, new misfortune, new questions, and new definitions to a growing list, but it is no way repetitive or boring. It makes me quite anxious, but not nervous, for the next book.
Coming Up Next: The Vile Village