A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

The basics

Title: A Bad Beginning


Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1

- A Bad Beginning (1999)
- The Reptile Room (1999)
- The Wide Window (2000)
- The Miserable Mill (2000)
- The Austere Academy (2000)
- The Ersatz Elevator (2001)
- The Vile Village (2001)
- The Hostile Hospital (2001)
- The Carnivorous Carnival (2002)
- The Slippery Slope (2003)
- The Grim Grotto (2004)
- The Penultimate Peril (2005)
- The End (2006)

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Goodreads Summary:

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

Read a full summary of A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket below. If you can’t remember what happened in A Bad Beginning and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in A Bad Beginning?

  • The Baudelaire children are at the beach when a family friend called Arthur Poe arrives and tells them their parents died in a fire. Poe has control of the Beaudelaire fortune until Violet comes of age.
  • The children go to live with Poe for a few days before being shipped off to their guardian, Count Olaf. Olaf is a distant relative who has been working as an actor in the city.
  • The children arrive at Olaf’s house and meet Justice Strauss, a judge on the High Court.
  • The children look around the house and it’s pretty gross and coverd in pictures of eyes.
  • They meet Count Olaf, who is awful. They make the children sleep in a tiny room with one bed and no toys. He makes them do lots of pointless chores.
  • Olaf makes the children make dinner for him and his theatre troupe. They find a recipe book at Justice Strauss’s house and they make a pasta. Olaf says he wants roast beef, and gets angry with the children for making pasta.
  • Olaf threatens to drop Sunny as punishment.
  • Olaf tells the children to go to bed after dinner. He hits Klaus for talking back to him. The theatre troupe laugh.
  • The children go to Mr Poe and tell him about Olaf’s treatment of them. Poe thinks they’re exaggerating. Poe insists Olaf can raise the orphans however he pleases.
  • Olaf tells the children he knows they went to Poe. Olaf apologises to the children and gives them oatmeal. The children wonder if the oatmeal is poisoned.
  • Olaf gives the children roles in his play, The Marvellous Marriage. In the play, Violet’s character will marry Olaf.
  • The children go to Justice Strauss’s house to do some reading up on the law. The Hook Handed Man shows up to take the children home. He tells the children that Olaf plans to kill them once Olaf gets the fortune.
  • Klaus learns that the marriage in the play will be legally binding and confronts Olaf. Olaf admits that it is true.
  • Klaus goes to tell Violet, and they find that Sunny is missing. They go looking for her and find her locked in a birdcage on top of the tower. Olaf threatens to kill Sunny if Violet doesn’t marry him in the play.
  • Violet climbs the tower at night. The Hook Handed Man is waiting for her, and Violet is captured. Klaus is brought up to the tower shortly after.
  • The play takes place and Violet signs the marriage document. Olaf tells the audience that the wedding was legal. Strauss and Poe object, but they can’t argue with the law.
  • Violet tells them the marriage wasn’t binding because she signed with her wrong hand. Strauss agrees that this is a loophole.
  • The Hook Handed Man shows up with Sunny before Olaf can have her killed.
  • Olaf is about to be arrested but the theatre troupe help him get away by switching off the lights. Olaf whispers in Violet’s ear that he will kill her and her siblings before he runs away.
  • Strauss wants to adopt the children but Poe says this is against their parents wishes, who wanted the children to live with a direct relative.
  • Poe takes the children back to his house while he looks for another guardian.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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