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Posted November 29, 2011
Edward Gorey pens another perfectly sadistic story of woe and want in Edwardian England. Relishing in the details of young Charlotte Sophia's inevitable and turbulent descent, Gorey turns the typical fairy tale on its head.
The book begins with a happy girl with a loving family and a faithful doll she names Hortense. And indeed all is well for the bright eyed girl for the first five sentences. Then through a series of excellently planned debaucheries, the happy girl loses all she holds dear.
Reminiscent of other Gorey stories, like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the horribly violent endings of these storybook characters evokes a dark humor that the reader cannot help but enjoy. Whether it is the uncle being "brained" by faulty masonry, or the dastardly demise of poor Hortense (yes, even the playthings are victims to Gorey's designs), it becomes instantly apparent that this children's book is just as apt for adults as well.
If you were looking for a bedtime story for your little ones, perhaps you better stick with Seuss, but if you want something spooky and evocative to read by the fire, you could do worse than The Hapless Child.
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Posted April 23, 2012
When I first purchased this book for my Writing About Literature class, I was anything but thrilled. I left the bookstore mumbling under my breath, "$15.79... 30 page.... hard cover... children's book." Go ahead and use your imagination to fill in the blanks. I spent the drive home calculating how many tall iced mochas I could have bought instead... or how many McDonald's value meals... or how many gallons of gas. The Hapless Child quickly found a snug spot on my bookshelf between two other textbooks I was not planning on ever actually opening; "The History of Japanese Literature" and "An Abstract View on Analytical Geometry." Inevitably, however, the dreaded day came. When it did, I hung my pride on the coat rack, and gave this little plum book a try.
Roughly six pages in, I realized I had been entirely wrong about "The Hapless Child." Between the easy vocabulary, concise sentences, and large pictures, is a wonderfully gruesome riches to rags story. The inside cover prefaces the book perfectly; "orphaned, mercilessly hazed by schoolmates, enslaved by a brute, [Charlotte Sophia] survives only by the skin of her baby teeth. And then she dies." What a great change of pace from the over-done "happily ever after" plots! It is hard to put into words how something can be demented and enjoyable at the same time. It just is. If you appreciate literary satire, if you get excited over a little bit of darkness, and if you like to be pleasantly surprised, purchase this book. I promise it will be much more rewarding than 3.7 tall iced mochas.
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Posted November 29, 2011
The Hapless Child by Edward Gorey is a fabulously dark tale. It tells the story of innocent little Charlotte Sophia, a small girl from a middle to upper-class home who lives with her mother and father. She is content. She has kind parents and a doll named Hortense who keep her company. Everything is dandy till her father, a colonel in the army, leaves the family to serve in Africa. This is when things go astray for little Sophia, as her father is declared dead and her mother dies of heartbreak. Once Sophia is sent to live with the family lawyer, things spiral out of control.
If you're a fan of satire, this book/graphic novel is for you. Not only does this book make fun of the Victorian archetype, but does so in an enjoyable and creepy way. Each page has an illustration and a one-sentence explanation of what's going on in the story. There are also little "demons" hidden on each page. They change shape and are a joy to find; like Where's Waldo, but creepier. All in all, this is a great book full of gothic illustrations, misleading sentences, and dark humor. I recommend this book to those who don't mind a little darkness.
Posted November 28, 2011
The Hapless Child, written by the notorious Edward Gorey, is a gem of a graphic novel. Gorey takes us through the life of his Charlotte Sophia, a young orphaned girl. Through her trials and tribulations, we see her life quickly spiral downwards. If you¿re looking for a book with a happy ending, I¿d suggest you look otherwise.
Through his use of dark illustrations paired with single-sentenced captions, Gorey creates a short story which follows the typical orphan master-plot. He parallels this tragic story of Charlotte Sophia along with Charlotte Bronte¿s Jane Eyre. This young orphan has lost her parents, is tormented through boarding school, and is searching for a place to call home ¿ very similar to our own Jane Eyre. The Hapless Child is a classic tale with a macabre twist. In this dark world where only bad things can happen, Edward Gorey manages to make something beautiful.
This novel is a must-read for fans of Gorey and also for those who love a good, yet shocking, short story.