Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events #13)

The Penultimate Peril (#12)
by  Lemony Snicket
Date Read:  10/06/15
Rating: ★ ★ 


I was super excited to finish this series.  I was hoping for an exciting conclusion and some bombshells to wrap up our questions.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. While I didn’t think this book was quite as much as a letdown as some, it still didn’t meet my hopes and expectations.

This story took a strange turn as the Baudelaires ended up shipwrecked on a strange island.  There was a group of colonists who were basically in a cult.  The head of the cult was strange and conniving and completely just thrown in there.

With all the characters that had graced us again in the previous book, I expected this big schism or something between VFD and all the villains.  But no.  VFD gets completely forgotten in this book. We never learn what the big schism was that tore apart VFD. We never learn what the sugar bowl is or why it is important. What I felt the most frustrated at was that other characters DID know, but kept telling the children that there are things in the world children shouldn’t know. Seriously? He did that because he did not even know what the sugar bowl was. He just needed something for the plot to focus on for a while.

I feel as though Snicket (or the actual author) just wrote and never had an outline for his story. He didn’t know where it was going to go and that is why there were still so many unanswered questions.  Did the Quagmires die? We assume so with the whole “Great Unknown” line, but we don’t know for sure.  We assume The Baudelaire parents used the poison darts on Olaf’s parents making him an orphan, but we do not know why.  We finally discovered who Beatrice is, but we do not know why she left Lemony Snicket to be with Mr. Baudelaire instead.

The love story between Olaf and Kit was just thrown in there too.  While I appreciated that it showed Olaf’s compassionate side and that he wasn’t always evil, it came out of nowhere!  There should have been something that pointed to that when you go back to think about it. But there’s nothing. It just made the fact that they both died a little sadder.  When Olaf said that he lost his true love, I assumed it was Esme, but after that scene, you change to assume it was Kit.

While I appreciate the theme of the book, that we can never know all the answers to life’s questions, this is still a story and there should have been more wrap up.  All stories end and we understand that the characters move on without us, but there is still a satisfactory ending to that specific story.

Although I did feel that we did get some answers if you paid attention to the details and the obscure side notes. It wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting. I didn’t expect Chapter 14.  I didn’t like that he purposely held the information regarding the name of the boat that Violet discovers.  At least we only had to wait until the end of the chapter, but that just seemed to kind of be the theme throughout the series – he would pose questions or uncover information and not reveal it to the reader. Probably because it didn’t fit in with the story.  Another reviewer said something that I thought was interesting. When the children with staying with Esme Squallor, she mentioned that Beatrice had stolen from her, and the children didn’t react to this statement. If their mother was Beatrice, they should have reacted to that.  Another ploy from the author to try to prevent the reader from connecting Beatrice as their mother.

I also didn’t like the way the author handled the world. Yes, it’s a terrible place where terrible things can happen to good people, good people do bad things, and people die. But the lives of the Baudelaires were far from normal. I understand that the author was trying to tell us that even though bad things happen, you can’t run from it.  You have to persevere and live through it, otherwise you’ll miss the happiness in life too.  I just wish he could have done this in a more realistic way.

There was one point that he makes in this book though that really stood out to me.  He stated that “It is almost as if happiness is an acquired taste, like coconut cordial or ceviche, to which you can eventually become accustomed, but despair is something surprising each time you encounter it.”  This has really stuck with me ever since hearing it.

My final thought is that I listened to this as an audiobook, so as far as I’m aware, the children were on the boat going back to society. In my mind they made it.  However, another reviewer said the book actually had a picture at the end of the sea, with broken pieces of wood with one having the name “Beatrice” on it, implying the boat was shipwrecked again.  So either the Baudelaires drown or they became cast aways on another island. I think I’m glad I listened to the audiobook so that I can envision my own future for the Baudelaires where they raise Beatrice and grow old together.  I may pick up the Beatrice Letters at a later date to see if we get any other questions answered…but if all it does is pose more questions, I think I’ll skip it.


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