While it's true I didn't get into The Series of Unfortunate Events until I was in high school, the sheer charm and depth of this story that, although it's written in a way that is easy for children to read, is absolutely enjoyable by folks of all ages. I was attracted to the story when my younger brother, who hates reading, told me I absolutely had to give it a try. I tend to follow his advice when he gets into any sort of book because it ends up being exceptional. To give you an idea, he also recommended Ender's Game and various other renowned titles throughout his time in Jr High.
The Bad Beginning is the first book of the 13-title series which introduces the Baudelaire children and their terrible circumstances. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are enjoying themselves at the beach one morning when Mr Poe, who is in charge of all their family affairs (in particular, their financial affairs) informs them that their parents have perished in a fire, which also took the entire Baudelaire Estate. According to their parents' will, they are to be raised by relatives in the most convenient way possible, and Mr Poe quickly leads them with the best intentions to the home of Count Olaf, which is the true beginning of the miserable turn their lives would take.
The children suffer many ordeals in the incapable hands of Count Olaf, whose only interest is to gain control of the Baudelaire fortune by despicable means and then dispose of the children. The Bad Beginning sets the tone for the entire series, exhibiting Count Olaf as one of the slimiest villains I've read while giving you an idea of Snicket's fantastic writing style.
You see, Mr Snicket has a way of writing that strikes all the right chords with my love of language. He utilizes alliteration, visuals in text and the kind of logic which defies logic (as in Alice in Wonderland), all the while making it completely comprehensible for a young child to understand. He introduces sophisticated vocabulary with their definitions when needed, then repeats the words as much as possible in context - a hugely effective learning tool for young readers, and a clever, amusing word arrangement for the rest of us.
At the same time, he writes this story as an outsider, a spy that is investigating the case of the Baudelaire children but has secrets he slowly lets go throughout the series. It's an exciting mystery though the story is sad, and as you might expect after reading The Bag Beginning, Count Olaf remains a menacing villain all the way to the bitter end.
As you can see, I have plenty of things to say when I get to gushing about this series. Re-reading the first book has made me want to re-read the entire thing, and more recently I've discovered Lemony Snicket has written several other titles I feel I need to get my hands on now. Additional to this series, there is also a case docket on a figure called Beatrice, who is a major part of the mystery with the spy Lemony Snicket, and is a great touch for folks that want to get a little deeper into the story. I recommend all of it.
That being said, I definitely feel it was the right time to give this book another go. I enjoyed The Bad Beginning just as much this time as I did back when I first discovered it. I'd also like to mention that if you are into audio books, Tim Curry narrates this series and does an exceptional job of it. That was a chance discovery. Back when the last book in the series first came out, it flew off the shelves at my university's bookstore and buying the audio book was my only way of getting it right away. I have no regrets!
[Buy The Bad Beginning on Amazon]