Book Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events 04: the Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

I have decided that a Series of Unfortunate Events are the perfect books for my morning cardio routine at the gym. Yesterday’s book was a Series of Unfortunate Events 04: the Miserable Mill (Young Adult 194 pages) by Lemony Snicket.

“Dear Reader, I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, The Miserable Mill might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log. The pages of this book, I’m sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantness as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons. I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket.”

One of the points I have commented on for my previous reviews of this series is how much I enjoy the writing style. I like how the structure works and how the sentences flow. I think this is a great book for anyone, not just younger people because of how words are defined not just by the context but by a similar definition. The story, and the series, continues to subtly and not-so-subtly introduce new vocabulary to people who may want new words and to those who may not have a very extensive vocabulary to start with. There are many examples of words being used and also described in context and defined, which I think is a great way to improve a reader’s vocabulary. And it’s written in such a way as to not be condescending, but to also demonstrate the full meaning of the intent of the word when used in very specific context.

In every one of these books so far, the unfortunate events are resolved by the special skills of the three Baudelaire children. The Baudelaires have to switch specialties for the duration of this book, which was an interesting twist. Due to the nefarious intent of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill foreman, Klaus has multiple issues with his glasses and it winds up being Violet who has to conduct book research without Klaus’ assistance in order to prevent disaster for the Baudelaire orphans. Klaus then has to invent something to prevent a horrible “accident” and Sunny participates in the strangest sword duel I’ve ever read about or seen. The Baudelaire children continue to demonstrate extreme resourcefulness in the face of crappy situations and I believe their ability to resolve issues with mostly knowledge is admirable.

I think my favorite part of this book was on page 108 when Klaus said, “I’m never skipping the boring parts of a book again.” This was at a point where the siblings realize that sometimes knowledge that isn’t particularly entertaining can be very, very useful at the strangest times, which was something I very much relate to.

Another very interesting correlation with the book happened for me on page 144 where the changes in Klaus are very obvious: “Klaus usually looked interested in the world around him, and now he had a blank expression on his face. His eyes were usually all squinty from reading, and now they were wide as if he had been watching TV instead. He was usually alert, full of interesting things to say, and now he was forgetful, and almost completely silent.” The correlation made here is that those who read might be more likely to be interested in the world around them, while those who watch TV are likely to become disinterested and mindless. Those who I associate with who read voraciously seem more imaginative and interactive than those I know who watch a lot of television. But maybe that’s just me and my thoughts.

Overall, I’d probably rate this book as a solid three on my rating scale because I really like the writing style, the characters are unique, and the message is mostly a positive one (for all that the book is not a happy story). I’m glad that I own this book and will continue with the rest of the books in the series.

Works cited: Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: the Miserable Mill. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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