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by Lemony Snicket
Harpercollins Juvenile Books, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 2nd 2002
It is a great relief to read The
Vile Village. There are a number of
reasons for this. It is a relief to
know that the Baudelaire orphans manage to locate the Quagmire triplets. It is also a relief to learn that Violet,
Klaus and Sunny manage to escape the clutches of Count Olaf. But the biggest relief is that author Lemony
Snicket manages to avoid the trap of becoming predictable. In my review of The Ersatz Elevator I
mentioned that this was a danger: in each book, our young recently orphaned
heroes find themselves under the care of a distant relative who is either
incompetent or downright nasty, and the children have to get themselves out of
trouble. It was a winning formula, and
there was enough variation to spark readers continued interest. The children worked in a factory, ran
endless laps around in large circles, cooked a meal for a theatre troupe, and
became knowledgeable about snakes. They
met all sorts of people and made new friends in Duncan and Isadora. But their mannerisms were getting a little
repetitious Sunny was always making comments that only made sense to her
siblings, and Violet was always putting up her hair in a ribbon to keep it out
of her eyes when she needed to do some inventing. By the sixth book in the series, there was a sense that the
authors bag of tricks was just about empty.
But this seventh book breathes new
life into the series. The children
start to mature Sunny begins to put recognizable words together, and Klaus
has a miserable thirteenth birthday. In
this story, they are not housed with a relative, because it turns out that no
more relatives are willing to take them in.
They become wards of a village instead.
It is a very strange village, where people live their lives by very
silly rules, and the punishment for breaking a rule, no matter how minor, is to
be burned at the stake. But the most
striking feature of this village is that it is populated by thousands of crows,
which partake in a daily migration pattern from one part of the village to
another. What a dark and troubling
image enters ones mind when one imagines these crows filling the sky or settling
into a massive tree for the night. The
Vile Village has the most interesting story and gripping ending of any of
the books in the series so far listening to the audiobook, I was literally on
the edge of my seat as actor Tim Curry narrated the unfolding events in the unabridged
There are several mysteries that
have arisen in this story of the Baudelaires that remain unresolved. It seems possible that the character of
Lemony Snicket may even enter the story at some future point, and we still do
not know what the initials V.F.D. stand for.
But the greatest mystery is what caused the Baudelaires family home to
burn down in the first place, and is there any possibility that the childrens
parents are in fact still alive?
Readers will hardly dare to entertain such a thought, but until we know
more about the supposed cause of their deaths, we cant be entirely sure that
Violet, Klaus and Sunny are really orphans.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Christian Perring, Ph.D.,
is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring
how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help
foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the