The only reason I picked up book one of The Series of Unfortunate Events, was because of Lemony Snicket's pep talk for NaNoWriMo. I absolutely loved it. It made me smile. It made me write.
Just from that pep talk, I knew I would love Lemony Snicket's writing style. It's simply charming. And The Bad Beginning was not a disappointment at all. Lemony Snicket actively narrates the story, and is, in fact, a character in the book. He will interrupt the story to explain the definition of a word, for instance:
'Mr. Poe opened his mouth to speak, but had to cough a few times before he began. "Yes... I'm dropping you off on my way to the bank, so we need to leave as soon as possible. Please get out of bed and get dressed," he said briskly. The word "briskly" here means "quickly," so as to get the Baudelaire children to leave the house.'
And I fell in love with that way of narrating. It's brilliant!
As far as technicalities go, I think every writer could learn something from, or at least appreciate, The Bad Beginning.
However, as far as the story goes, it's pretty unhappy. It's not dark or oppressive, it's just.... not happy. It's about the three Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who lose their parents in a fire and end up having to live with a distant relative, Count Olaf, who is after their family fortune. Their lives are miserable while living in his house, and even though the children are clever and inventive, especially in the buildup to, and in the thick of, the climax, the tale does not end happy after the villain is outsmarted.
Of course, it is called The Bad Beginning, book one of The Series of Unfortunate Events. Even the author himself warns the reader: It's not a cheerful tale in any respect, and if you like cheerful, happily-ever-after stories, then put this one down and go find another.
I enjoyed the book for what it was, though. It's a quick read, actually. I read the whole thing in under two hours. I've also been trying to read as many books set in Britain, or about British people, as I can. So this was a handy read for me, for multiple reasons.
My conclusion? If you like quick reads, witty writing, and don't mind unhappy endings, then please! read The Bad Beginning. But if you happen to mind unhappy stories with unhappy endings, then go find a different book.