The Hostile Hospital is the eighth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by American author, Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). As we once again join the unlucky Baudelaire orphans, they are walking to escape the Vile Village where they were accused of murdering Count Olaf.
Having already suffered the loss of their parents, the threat of marriage, slave labour, hypnosis, a terrible boarding school, being thrown down a lift shaft , being thrown in jail and the murder of their Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine at the hands of the evil Count Olaf and his nefarious assistants, the siblings are ever-vigilant of his reappearance. Luckily these well-mannered and uncomplaining children are also very resourceful: Violet invents, Klaus researches and Sunny bites.
Snicket’s tone throughout is apologetic, sincere and matter-of-fact as he relates the unfortunate events in the children’s lives; his imaginative and even surreptitiously educational style will hold much appeal for younger readers, as will the persistent silliness of adults. Snicket’s word and phrase definitions are often hilarious. There are some literary references to delight older readers.
This instalment sees the Baudelaires join a troupe of Volunteers Fighting Disease at the Heimlich Hospital. They are luckily assigned (by the Head of Human Resources, an adult who is heard and not seen) to filing paperwork in the Library of Records, enabling them to search for clues about Jacques Snicket and whatever intriguing information he had about the Baudelaire parents.
Of course Olaf, Esme and their nasty crew appear to make life difficult and dangerous for the orphans, causing them to resorts to disguise and untruth. Anagrams and alphabet soup play a big part in this instalment; Esme plays a deadly game of filing-cabinet dominoes; Violet almost loses her head, but manages to save the day using rubber bands and a make-shift megaphone. As always, the alliterative titles are delightful and Brett Helquist provides some wonderfully evocative illustrations. Trapped in the trunk of Count Olaf’s car, what will be the fate of our orphans in the ninth instalment, The Carnivorous Carnival?