A Series of Unfortunate Events #4: The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

Read: 28 March, 2017

Another instalment in the Beaudelaire saga, and likely the last one that we’ll read for a little while. The goal was to read the first four so that we could watch the Netflix show, and now I think that we need a bit of a breather. Not because there’s anything wrong with the series, but simply because we are fickle creatures who crave variety (and because I accidentally stayed up too late one night and put about a bazillion picture books on hold at the library and they’ve all come in at once).

The Miserable Mill changes things up a little, in that we get to meet a new accomplice. Sort of. Because we don’t get very much of Dr. Orwell. But still, she’s an interesting one. She’s different from Count Olaf – smarter, more cunning. I would have liked to see a bit more of her.

Without getting too much into spoiler territory, there’s a rather horrific scene at the end that rather disturbed me. This book has upped how graphic the death and maiming is.

Gender is an interesting theme in this series. We have the ambiguously gendered henchperson, which comes off feeling a bit transphobic (particularly in The Wide Window), and in this book we get a cross-dressing Count Olaf. And I don’t really know what to make of it.

But then there are gender reversals that feel refreshing, like having Dr. Orwell be a woman (which I wasn’t expecting, based both on my own biases and the name), and having the co-owner of the lumber mill seem queer coded (and not be a villain!).

So, as with most things, I think it’s complicated. Snicket is doing a great job sometimes, and riding his own biases at other times.

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More in the Series of Unfortunate Events series:

  1. The Bad Beginning
  2. The Reptile Room
  3. The Wide Window
  4. The Miserable Mill
  5. The Austere Academy
  6. The Ersatz Elevator
  7. The Vile Village
  8. The Hostile Hospital
  9. The Carnivorous Carnival
  10. The Slipper Slope
  11. The Grim Grotto
  12. The Penultimate Peril
  13. The End

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