Resurrected book review: The End, by Lemony Snicket

From August 2012.


Much, much more satisfied than I was the last time, as a poor underdeveloped teenager.

The Eden stuff tickled me to death (tree of knowledge!  Snake offering life instead of damnation!  Oh Lemony, you humanist you).  And I had some vague memory that something weird happens with Count Olaf’s character, but I was very pleasantly surprised/reassured that way; he remains entirely in-character through it all, even with the surprise revelation of Olaf/Kit (kissing her on the mouth and then saying, “I told you I’d do that one last time.”  To which she says, “You’re a wicked man.  Do you think one kind act can make me forgive all your failings?”  And he replies, “I haven’t apologized.”).

I loved too all the myriad desert island references: Friday, Miranda Caliban, Robinson, Calypso, and many others I’m sure I missed.  Oh, and Ishmael (“Call me Ish”).

And I have a hard time wrapping up my feelings for this series in a neat summary.  I got impatient with the earlier books, but starting after the fifth, I think, the complexity significantly increased with each one.  But I think my favorite installments are the eighth and ninth (Hostile Hospital and Carnivorous Carnival), though I also love Violet/Quigley’s kiss and the way Fiona broke Klaus’s heart, and the fact that her brother was the hook-handed man.  And the way the two white women disappeared, and the choices Fiona made.  I loved the different glimpses of Count Olaf we got in the last two books, and how he never actually changed.  I love, love, love Lemony Snicket’s style (and I wonder, too, how far ahead he [the character] wrote these books, considering the messages encoded to his sister even in the eleventh, yet he was aware of her death in the thirteenth).

My less reverent side is amused with the possibilities of identical triplets and who might have been Kit’s child’s father.  It’s implied to be Dewey, of course, but does she really know?  And of course my favorite theory is that she knowingly slept with all three and is unconcerned about the father’s identity.  Dewey just may have been the one she liked best.

The first time around, I was so wrapped up in the various mysteries presented — the full story of Beatrice (including that time she was picked up by an eagle), the sugar bowl, etc. — and then outraged when Lemony left them unsolved, I declared The End a failure and sad disappointment, ridiculing the way he declared “in medias res” as a cop-out after tangling things too much to sort out.  This time, I focused more on the themes and literary references, and appreciated the story for itself, and for its life truths, including “in medias res.”

And the best I can do now is quote the last lines in Chapter Thirteen (which is really the second-to-last chapter of the book), which almost moved me to tears when I heard them yesterday in the car.

Sometimes they would visit Kit Snicket’s grave, where they would lay a few wildflowers, or the grave of Count Olaf, where they would merely stand silent for a few moments.  In many ways, the lives of the Baudelaire orphans that year is not unlike my own, now that I have concluded my investigation.  Like Violet, like Klaus, and like Sunny, I visit certain graves, and often spend my mornings standing on a brae, staring out at the same sea.  It is not the whole story, of course, but it is enough.  Under the circumstances, it is the best for which you can hope.

And then the final dedication for Chapter Fourteen:

For Beatrice —

We are like boats passing in the night —

particularly you.

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