The Bad Beginning (Unabridged Audio Book)

Music by The Gothic Archies
Artist Group: 
Read by Tim Curry
Listening Library
Publisher Catalog Number: 
YA 274
Length in minutes: 


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Publication Date: 
A Series of Unfortunate Events
need tracks

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Short Review: 
The first in the popular <I>A Series of Unfortunate Events</I>, the aptly named <I>The Bad Beginning</I> goes a long way toward proving the maxim that no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. Performing with campy perfection, Tim Curry is an inspired choice for capturing the wry, archly ironic comic undertones in this gothic melodrama.
Long Review: 

Following the unfortunate demise of their parents in a fire that destroys their home, the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, become the Baudelaire orphans. Proving the old maxim that no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse, the Baudelaire orphans face one disastrous situation after another (in grand ‘Perils of Pauline’ melodramatic style). They are forced to go and live with the terrifying Count Olaf, a scary and villainous distant relation, and it soon becomes clear to the orphans (if to no one else) that in addition to terrorizing and abusing them, Count Olaf wants to get his hands on the orphans’ considerable fortune. Count Olaf even goes so far as to concoct a plan to marry 14-year-old Violet. Although the clever orphans manage to thwart Count Olaf’s nefarious plot, there is no conventional happy ending. In fact the stage is set for further miserable misadventures – to be chronicled in the next 12 of this projected 13-volume series. If taken literally, what happens to these children is quite disturbing – but there is an understated wry humor, an arch sense of irony that pervades and lightens the mood of the book – and the orphans are so resourceful, the reader never loses hope that they will get out of sticky situations intact. Well-known for his campy film roles (think Rocky Horror Picture Show), Tim Curry is an inspired choice for reading this over the top, gothic melodrama. As the narrator of this sad tale, Curry deftly captures its archly ironic and comic undertones, as when he defines potentially unfamiliar words in his account with an amusing pedantry, and translates baby Sunny’s nonsense infant syllables. His characterizations are all spot on, and he is particularly effective as Count Olaf, making him supremely creepy with his wheezy, soft hissing voice just oozing and insinuating evilness. Concluding this recording are an amusing and enlightening interview with the author conducted by noted children’s literature critic Leonard Marcus, and a wonderful musical encapsulation of the story, “Scream and Run Away,” performed by the Gothic Archies.

Lauren Mayer