With The Wide Window, Lemony Snicket’s “Series of Unfortunate Events” series of children’s books moves into its third chapter. The Baudelaire orphans need a new place to stay after the tragic events in the previous book, and the vaguely well-meaning but incompetent Mr. Poe shuffles them off to the care of Aunt Josephine. Said aunt isn’t unpleasant as such, but is hysterically afraid of… pretty much everything. The new “family” mostly eats cold cucumber soup and such, since Aunt Josephine is afraid that the stove will explode if she tries to use it. Heating is, naturally enough, another much too risky venture, so the children have to make do in a chilly clifftop house. Josephine used to be different, but when her husband died on the lake below the house, attacked by killer eels, she lost heart. Now she only lives for grammar. Very proper grammar. Which is all fine and good, but does not keep one warm or well-fed, and neither does it protect from nefarious strangers tracking the Baudelaire children.
The book follows the basic formula of the previous one: the children arrive at a new home, find out things about it (most of them unusual or strange), and then find out that Count Olaf is trying to gain access to them via some disguise and false identity - at which point none of the adults believe them, and it’s up to the children to save the day. Details vary. While it works, I’m hoping that not all of the book here follow the formula quite that exactly. Of course, it’s quite possible that they do – a dependable formula can work very well, especially with children’s books, and the details of the story are the most important ingredients in any case. I guess a lot of the books I read as a kid were very formulaic, and I just didn’t notice. Or, maybe, didn’t much care since I liked the formula.
That said, it’s a fun, fast read, and gives me no reason to reduce my high opinion of this series.