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A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning [Kindle Edition]

Lemony Snicket , Brett Helquist , Michael Kupperman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,606 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $6.99
Kindle Price: $3.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Make no mistake. The Bad Beginning begins badly for the three Baudelaire children, and then gets worse. Their misfortunes begin one gray day on Briny Beach when Mr. Poe tells them that their parents perished in a fire that destroyed their whole house. "It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed," laments the personable (occasionally pedantic) narrator, who tells the story as if his readers are gathered around an armchair on pillows. But of course what follows is dreadful. The children thought it was bad when the well-meaning Poes bought them grotesque-colored clothing that itched. But when they are ushered to the dilapidated doorstep of the miserable, thin, unshaven, shiny-eyed, money-grubbing Count Olaf, they know that they--and their family fortune--are in real trouble. Still, they could never have anticipated how much trouble. While it's true that the events that unfold in Lemony Snicket's novels are bleak, and things never turn out as you'd hope, these delightful, funny, linguistically playful books are reminiscent of Roald Dahl (remember James and the Giant Peach and his horrid spinster aunts), Charles Dickens (the orphaned Pip in Great Expectations without the mysterious benefactor), and Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies). There is no question that young readers will want to read the continuing unlucky adventures of the Baudelaire children in The Reptile Room and The Wide Window. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

British actor Tim Curry, whose reputation for playing dastardly villain types precedes him, is terrific in this adaptation of the intentionally over-the-top, slightly scary tale of the Baudelaire orphans. As narrator/author Snicket, Curry relates the sad saga with pity and enlightenment sparked by dashes of humor. When the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and baby Sunny, learn that their parents have perished in a fire at the family mansion, the children's rocky course is set for misery and misadventure (enough to fill the projected 13 volumes of this clever book series). The executor of the Baudelaire parents' will and keeper of the family fortune, Mr. Poe, arranges for the orphans to live with a guardian, a creepy distant relative named Count Olaf. Nasty in more ways than one, Count Olaf mistreats the children, leading them to quickly discover that he only wants their money. After they unravel one of the count's more awful schemes, the children are eventually delivered from the situation, leading neatly into a sequel. Curry plays Olaf with an appropriately spooky whispering hiss and deserves extra kudos for his convincing portrayal of Poe's racking, sometimes phlegmy cough. As a bonus, the tape contains a hilarious interview between historian, critic and author Leonard S. Marcus and Daniel Handler (suspected to be the mysterious Lemony Snicket himself). An entertaining song called "Scream and Run Away," about Count Olaf, fittingly closes the proceedings. Ages 9-up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
192 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read October 19, 2003
Format:Hardcover
I went back and forth about whether I should get this book to read with my 7 year old second grader. I kept telling myself I should wait till she was older, but found the book at a good price, so I bought it. I worried it would be too depressing and scary for her, but it did not turn out that way at all. The book is written from a narrators point of view, so the personal feelings of the characters are never fully exposed and explored. You know that the three orphans are sad about their parents death, but the book doesn't wallow in their grief and make it painful to read. If you can imagine Vincent Price reading the book, that tends to make it a little more lighthearted. The bad guy of the book, Count Olaf, is an awful brute who is outright cruel to the children at times, but again the book doesn't have the children suffering without end. Instead it makes them more resilient to foil the Counts plans and triumph over him. My daughter was EAGER to read these books. That was the best thing about it all. We have tried classics, Pippi Longstocking, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlottes Web, but as great as they are, they lack The Bad Beginnings level of excitement, mystery and wondering what will happen next. I enjoyed the book myself and will continue to read the rest of the series, in hopes they are as entertaining as this one. I can see if you have a very sensitive child, this would not be the book for them until they are older. Some kids my daughters age are scared of Harry Potter movies, so this book would be too much for them. If your youngster isn't living in a sheltered world where everything is wonderful and bad things don't happen, and they can understand the difference between a made up story and a real one, then they just might enjoy this new type of childrens adventure stories.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Most Unfortunate Family... May 1, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
If you like the part of Harry Potter when he's living under the stairs of the Dursley household, before the happy bit where he gets accepted to Wizard school, then you'll enjoy these books.
The Baudelaire orphans are nice and smart. But boy are they unlucky. The book opens with the Baudelaire parents dying in a fire and the orphans having to find a relative to look after them. Although there is a huge family fortune, they can't get it until Violet, the oldest at 14, turns 18. But this doesn't stop the dastardly (and there isn't really any other word to describe him) Count Olaf, a horrible and distant relative, and his nasty henchmen/women/things from trying to get their hands (or hooks) on it. And as far as Olaf is concerened, the Baudelaires are expendable, a word which here means "not needed after Count Olaf gets his hands on the money".
Just one word of warning--when the author says if you like cheerful books or happy endings, stop reading now, he means it. But if you like miserable scary books with unhappy endings, keep reading! And you'll learn lots of horrible words with depressing or unfortunate meanings as well.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too delicious! February 15, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I came to this series as a result of an interview with the author that I read in Publishers Weekly. Intrigued, I ordered the first three books. I loved them. They are purportedly children's books but the author has a wicked sense of humor, and includes references that only adults would recognize. (For example, two of the three children are named Sunny and Klaus. Gee, that makes me think about some real-life wicked goings-on.)
Aside from everything else, these children actually come alive; they're inventive, clever and resourceful. They also suffer at the hands of their wonderfully conceived evil uncle Count Olaf.
I've passed these books along to a number of children who gobbled them up as avidly as I did--which proves that a good book knows no age barriers. This series is pure pleasure.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book! January 2, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I'm in 5th grade and I thought the book is great. It felt like I was in the book and I was Baudelaire child. I read the book in one whole day because I couldn't stop. The next day I read the sequel. I recommend this book to all.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully Depressing April 4, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Library Binding
These books are sure to capture the attention of any reader. They are both funny and well-written, with fast-moving plots and memorable characters. Believe the description, though. If depressing events fill you with dismay and may cause you to lock yourself away for days following your reading of this book, perhaps you'd better abstain. Otherwise, these books belong on bookshelves beside Harry Potter, A Little Princess, Oliver Twist, and the Narnia Chronicles. Of course bad things happen to orphans. That's the purpose of their existence in the world of books. Come on now. Isn't it refreshing to have an author be honest about it for once?
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40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a series of unfortunate events - and he's not kidding November 14, 2000
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book expecting something darkly whimsical, something like Dahl, or Gorey, or Burton, perhaps. I wasn't entirely impressed. There wasn't enough whimsy for my taste, and I found the travails of the Baudelaire children not amusing but truly *depressing*. One horrible thing after another happens to the children, and it's really not as amusing or as charming as you'd think. As Mr. "Snicket" says, in the opening line of the book, "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book." And he's not kidding. Another reviewer remarked on the similarity of this book to the part in Harry Potter where he lives under the stairs "before the happy bit". I have to disagree. That was a good kind of melancholy - this is just plain awful. I also found the vocabulary lessons on every other page to be irritating. It was almost cute the first couple of times, but after a while, you just want to bludgeon Mr. "Snicket" to death with a dictionary. I also couldn't figure out if this book was intended for children or for adults. If it was written for children, I might question Mr. Snicket's taste - most of the adults are grotesque pedophilic monsters who constantly leer and drool over the children. Is he writing these books as proscribed therapy as a sex-offender? If it was written for adults, it comes off entirely too condescending and simple. Still, it has a certain.. je ne sais quoi. I would recommend that most people borrow this first book from a friend or the library before deciding to buy the series. However, if you are a truly mean-spirited, black-hearted, lecherous, leering villain, I recommend you run out and buy them all today: this series was made for you!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunate events indeed!
First off, I would suggest this series / book for (advanced?) young readers -- 2nd through 5th grade. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Adrianne P
5.0 out of 5 stars good book!
I thought this book was good, exciting, scary, and awesome! I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
Published 5 days ago by Bone Freak
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it
I loved it
I liked when vilolet used her left hand not her right hand
I want to tea it
Published 5 days ago by Jade Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars great book
I liked how easy it was to read it was very enjoyable and k will read ,ore

Of his books soon
Published 7 days ago by Brenda
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Love this series.
Published 9 days ago by Cathie Swan
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
I read this book with my daughter and I enjoyed it very much. It is fun in a witty, pun filled sort of way; it was an clean inoffensive read to share with my eleven year old. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Brett Lamborn
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing
Such A good series I just had to read it again. What happens to these children is a despicable thing...
Published 13 days ago by hm
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book That Teaches Good Values
I read one of the reviews left by a critic of this book. She complained she couldn't endorse this book because the children were not as admirable (among other things) as the... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written but horrifyingly funny.
Five stars is misleading, because in a way I hated this book. The author makes it very clear that this is a series of misadventures for three orphans and certainly does not... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Venice Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars very sad
Sad at the end of the book
A very good book also lots of sad parts he is a good author
Published 1 month ago by Rebecca A. Szrejna
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More About the Author

Lemony Snicket claims he was nowhere near the scene of the crime. He is the author of several other unpleasant stories, including those in the bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Lump of Coal.

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