WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)
Type: Adventure, Contemporary
Basic Plot: The Baudelaire children have again been moved, this time to a lumber mill. Again they are being chased by Count Olaf, and again they are trying to outwit him.
Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: I think this book is probably the one that is the least interesting in the series. It is still good, but it can be boring, as it is the same old story line. The Baudelaires move to new guardians, Count Olaf chases them, no one believes the children, but in the end, somehow the children survive and Count Olaf escapes. This is the last book in the series that will focus only on Count Olaf trying to get their fortune. From book five, the series is a given a whole new twist.
Even though this book is a bit redundant in its basic plot, the story was still good, and I don’t recommend that you skip it. The characters were still creative, Count Olaf was still cleverly evil, and the lives of the Baudelaires were still just as depressing as ever.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: The writing style was as good as the other books. I think one of the things that make the series so good, even if the main plot is repeated throughout the series, is that the author has a creative and entertaining style. His way of describing and explaining things is definitely humorous.
Graphics: 4/5 Well Done: The graphics were done in the same style as the ones in the previous book, pencil sketches. They were again scattered with clues about what would and will happen.
Moral: 2/5 A Vague, Mostly Good Moral: The moral of the book is again unclear. You could go with the moral of the previous book that shows how the children stick together and work as a team. They definitely do so in this book, and by the end really appreciate each other more. They also realize that even though their life is difficult, they still are “lucky” that they things did work out to a degree. The moral is not very clearly spelled out though, so you may not get that from reading this.
The philosophy of “Your Parents are Stupid and Your Neighbor is Evil” is in this book as well.
Overall: 4/5 Well Done The book is definitely recommendable in quality. It is recommended in interest for children eleven to twelve and older.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 0/5 None
Violence: 2/5 Mentioned, Threatened, Attempted, and Light Violence: It mentions doctors giving shots. A man trips a boy three times. A man hurts his leg from an accident and is taken to the hospital. A baby bites a ladies hand. A baby bites her own lip when she is nervous and causes it to bleed. A man threatens to rip out some children’s hair if they don’t do what he says. A man is almost pushed into some spinning blades, and he does get a cut on his foot. A woman steps backward and is killed by spinning blades. A woman kicks and puts her foot on a baby.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 “Gee” is used once.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Some Slightly Intense Scenes and Potentially Disturbing Content: It mentions people that had been murdered or died in previous books. It mentions in the dedications that a woman has died. There are metaphors like “back breaking.” Blood is mentioned once. It mentions a sign “made of dead monkeys.” A man trips a boy three times. It mentions how an optimist would respond to his arm being eaten by an alligator. A man is almost killed by being chopped up by saws. A woman actually is killed this way, and a man has his leg “stamped” and is rushed to the hospital. Though neither of the injuries is described explicitly, it is mentioned that one is “gory,” and it is made clear that both of them were violent.
Religious Issues: 1/5 A Possible Religious Issue: A boy is hypnotized twice. It is not shown how it is done, but he is hypnotized. When he is unhypnotized he talks about stories in history he had read about hypnosis. A girl reads a book to try to understand hypnosis.
Magic: ½/5 Slight Mention: “Zombie” is used to describe once.
Others: A man smokes cigars and smokes so much that the smoke is “covering his face.” A man dresses as a woman for a disguise. This disguise includes long nails, a skirt, and a wig. He insist that he be called “Shirley,” and until he revealed by the children to be a man, he is referred to as “she” and “her” by the author.
Some people believe that the Baudelaire’s new guardian Sir and his business partner Charles are a gay couple. I never got that out of the book when I read it as a child, and only started wondering that when I heard about the rumor from other sources. It is possible, as Charles is mentioned doing a lot of the things that would be considered more house wife-like than business partner-like such as cooking and cleaning. I had always assumed as a child that this was merely for humor purposes and to show Charles as being less important than Sir, but it is possible that it is because they are a couple of some kind. If they are though, it is not stated or shown in any way, and is merely something someone would get from speculation.
Overall: Count Olaf dressing as a woman for half of the book, hypnosis, and the possibility of Charles and Sir being gay are probably the two things that are of the most concern. As I said earlier, Sir and Charles are never said to be in a relationship, nor do they act as if they are, but it could be seen that way. I also don’t think a child would see it as a gay relationship unless told that Sir and Charles were gay, as I never even considered that until I heard from other people that it was a possibility.
This book is recommendable only is Sir and Charles are not gay. If you think the character’s behavior suggest homosexuality too much or if it is a solid fact that they are a couple, than I don’t recommend the book. If you believe that the behavior does not suggest it or if it is known that they are merely business partners, I can recommend the book. If read, I suggest ages ten and older.
Here is a link to the fifth review: