In this book, the Baudelaires are on run after being accused for murdering "Count Olaf" (Jacques Snicket). They take refugee in a half-built hospital and secretly sleep in its unfinished half for shelter. Count Olaf and his troupe develop a scheme to perform a "cranioectomy" on Violet, meaning her head would be cut off against her will while under anesthesia, making it impossible for her to inherit the fortune. Klaus and Sunny work together to save their older sister from dying in the operation.
Before you throw this awful book to the ground and run as far away from it as possible, you should probably know why. This book is the only book that describes every last detail of the Baudelaire children's miserable stay at Heimlich Hospital, which makes it one of the most dreadful books in the world.
There are many pleasant things to read about, but this book contains none of them. Within its pages, are such burdensome details such as a suspicious shopkeeper, unnecessary surgery, an intercom system, anesthesia, heart-shaped balloons, and some very startling news about a fire. Clearly, you do not want to read about such things.
I have sworn to research this story, and to write it down as best as I can, so I should know that this book is something best left on the ground, where you undoubtedly found it.
With all due respect,
- For Beatrice–
- Summer without you is as cold as winter.
- Winter without you is even colder.
Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire arrive at the Last Chance General Store in the hinterlands on the run from the police and residents of the Village of Fowl Devotees. They are falsely accused of murdering "Count Olaf" (Jacques Snicket) at the end of the previous book. There, they find a shopkeeper who offers them breakfast and lets them send a telegram from the store to Mr. Poe seeking help.
The Baudelaires are picked up by Volunteers Fighting Disease, a group of enthusiasts that visit Heimlich Hospital to increase the morale of patients but never offer anything physically helpful, like medicine. They believe that 'No News Is Good News' and therefore have never read The Daily Punctilio (and don't recognize the Baudelaires). One of the members suggests the Baudelaires seek a Library of Records to find their V.F.D. the children ask them if they knew a Jacques, (because Volunteers Fighting Disease's initials are V.F.D.). They tell the children that they don't know him and add that they don't know each other's real names, but only call each other brother and sister.
They reach Heimlich Hospital and get jobs with Hal in the Library of Records. Hal explains to them that they look familiar. He then says that he remembers them in a file about Snicket fires. At night, they secretly sleep in the unfinished half of the hospital where it's cold and damp, as they can not be found. Reviewing the few pages of the commonplace book they received from Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, they discover the existence of the Snicket File. They play a trick on Hal to try to get it, but only succeed in retrieving the 13th page, which reads:
- Due to the evidence discussed on page 9, experts now suspect that there may in fact be one survivor of the fire, but the survivor's whereabouts are unknown.
It also says the rest was taken by the authorities. At this point, Esmé Squalor picks the lock on the door and chases them for the file. Klaus and Sunny escape up a chute, but Violet is too big and gets caught. Mattathias (who is actually Count Olaf posing as the Human Resources Manager at the hospital) informs the hospital on the intercom that Klaus and Sunny are in the building.
They hide with the volunteers the next day and then they hear on the intercom system that their sister will be receiving an unwanted "cranioectomy." They hide in a supply closet and find out by using anagrams and alphabet soup where the villains are hiding their sister, using the name "Laura V. Bleediotie." They disguise themselves as two "very short" doctors with robes and surgical maskes to cover their faces so they can get through the hospital. On their way they come across Esmé who is carrying the long sharp knife that Count Olaf threatened them with in The Reptile Room. She believes that they are the two white-faced women (regular associates of Count Olaf). She leads them to the hook-handed man and the bald man, who leads them to Violet. They take Violet to the operating theater to begin the operation.
Although they briefly stall the operation by telling the history of the knife, Hal walks in accusing them of setting fire to the hospital. Esmé walks in along with the real white-faced women and "exposes" them. They are rounded up and Violet wakes up. Esmé has set fire to the Library and the fire is spreading. The person of indeterminate gender tries to catch them as they run through the hospital with Violet still laying on a gurney.
The three children hide in another closet which looks exactly like the other supply closet that Klaus and Sunny used. They then divert the crowd of escapees outside to the unfinished half of the hospital by acting like the intercom system and telling them that the Baudelaires have been spotted there. They must hurry for the person of intermediate gender is outside in the hallway trying to bust down the door to the closet. They use tied rubber bands and bungee to jump out of the building.
They hear Count Olaf yelling to his associates to put the disguises in the trunk and get in his long black car. Before the trunk is shut, the Baudelaires hide in the trunk of the car while he escapes with most of his assistants, but the person of intermediate gender is left in the hospital (possibly killed by the fire). They can breathe in the trunk for there are bullet holes in it probably from high-speed chases with policemen.
- Volunteers Fighting Disease
- Geraldine Julienne
- Emma Bovary (patient with food poisoning)
- Jonah Mapple (patient with seasickness)
- Clarissa Dalloway (patient who did not seem to have anything wrong with her but was staring sadly out the window)
- Cynthia Vane (patient with toothache)
- Charley Anderson (patient who injured himself in an accident)
- Bernard Rieux (patient in Plague Ward with a cough)
- Violet Baudelaire
- Klaus Baudelaire
- Sunny Baudelaire
- Count Olaf (as Mattathias)
- Hook-Handed Man (as a doctor)
- The Bald Man with the Long Nose (as the head doctor)
- Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender (as a hospital guard)
- White-Faced Women (as Dr. Tocuna and Nurse Flo)
- Esmé Squalor (as a doctor)
- Arthur Poe
- Jacob Snicket
- Mr. Sirin (friend of Lemony Snicket)
- Mikhail Bulgakov
- Haruki Murakami
- Lisa N. Lootnday (anagram of Alison Donalty)
- Albert E. Deviloeia (anagram of Violet Baudelaire made in order to mislead, the true Violet is Laura)
- Linda Rhaldeen (anagram of Daniel Handler)
- Ada O. Übervillet (anagram of Violet Baudelaire made in order to mislead, the true Violet is Laura)
- Ed Valiantbrue (anagram of Violet Baudelaire made in order to mislead, the true Violet is Laura)
- Laura V. Bleediotie (anagram of Violet Baudelaire)
- Monty Kensickle (anagram of Lemony Snicket)
- Ned H. Rirger (anagram of Red Herring)
- Eriq Bluthetts (anagram of Brett Helquist)
- Ruth Dërcroump (anagram of Rupert Murdoch)
- Al Brisnow (anagram of Lisa Brown)
- Carrie E. Abelabudite (anagram of Beatrice Baudelaire)
- As comfortable as they could: The Baudelaire orphans had made themselves as comfortable as they could in the half finished section of Heimlich Hospital, but I'm sorry to say the phrase "as comfortable as they could" here means "not very comfortable at all."
- Audacity: Violet shook her head at Mattathias's audacity, a word which here means "attempt to steal valuables from hospital employees, in addition to snatching the Baudelaire fortune."
- Cruel twist of fate: I am alone this evening, and I am alone because of a cruel twist of fate, a phrase which here means that nothing has happened the way I thought it would.
- Dumbfoundedly: "Recazier?" Sunny asked dumbfoundedly. The word "dumbfoundedly" here means "wondering why in the world Klaus wanted to eat alphabet soup at a time like this," and "Recazier?" here means "Klaus, why in the world do you want to eat alphabet soup at a time like this?"
- Empathetically: Sunny nodded emphatically, a word which here means "as if she thought being extra careful was a very good plan"
- Futile: It is absolutely futile-a word which here means "useless, unnecessary, and ineffectual, because there is no reason for it"-to describe how they felt as they sat in the half-finished section of the hospital
- Increase exponentially: The two young siblings felt the butterfly feeling in their stomachs increase exponentially-a phrase which here means "get much, much worse"
- Infiltrated the group: The volunteers paid no attention as Klaus and Sunny infiltrated the group, a phrase which here means "sneaked into the middle of a singing crowd."
- Made short work: The Baudelaires, who had not eaten since they left the village, soon made short work-a phrase which here means "ate every warm, sweet crumb"-of the pastries.
- Music has charms to sooth a savage beast: An associate of mine named William Congreve once wrote a very sad play that begins with the line "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast," a sentence which here means that if you are nervous or upset, you might listen to some music to calm you down or cheer you up.
- Reproving the Baudelaires: The intercom speaker was too busy reproving the Baudelaires, a phrase which here means "shouting 'Be silent!'" at every opportunity.
- Severe lack of moral stamina: here means "cruel selfishness combined with a love of violence"
- Substantial interference: a phrase which here means "something getting in her way."
- Slave to fashion: Esmé Squalor had been a slave to fashion, a phrase which here means "dressed in incredibly expensive, and often incredibly absurd, outfits."
- Spurious: Their disguises looked spurious-a word which here means "nothing at all like a real doctor"
- Stepped to it: The children stepped to it, a phrase which here means "took their positions around the telegram device."
- Ward: a word which here means "particular section of the hospital"
- The Baudelaires travel to Heimlich Hospital with the Volunteers Fighting Disease.
- While in the Hospital's Library of Records, the children find page thirteen of The Snicket File.
References to the Real World
- Main article: References and allusions in Lemony Snicket's works
- One patient mentioned in the book is said to be living in room 1308, a reference to the book number and the number of books in the series.
- Emma Bovary, a patient with food poisoning, refers to the character of the same name in Gustave Flaubert's novel, Madame Bovary.
- Jonah Mapple, who suffers from seasickness, is named after Father Mapple, a preacher known for sermonizing on the Biblical tale of Jonah trapped in a whale in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
- "Clarissa Dalloway" is an allusion to a character of the same name in Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Snicket's character suffers from no visible ailment, but stares sadly out the window, which could refer to both Woolf's struggles with depression and her essay, "A Room of One's Own."
- Cynthia Vane, a patient with a toothache, is named after a character in Vladimir Nabokov's short story, "The Vane Sisters."
- "Charley Anderson" comes from John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy.
- Dr. Bernard Rieux, whose ailment is a terrible cough, likely came from Albert Camus's La Peste ("The Plague").
- Two patients share names with actual authors: Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer and translator, and Mikhail Bulgakov, a Russian novelist and playwright.
- Heimlich Hospital is a reference to Henry Heimlich, an American physician best known for the Heimlich Maneuver.
- In an illustration, one of the Volunteers Fighting Disease plays a guitar with the inscription "This Volunteer fights disease." This is an allusion to Woody Guthrie, American singer-songwriter and folk musician, who inscribed "This machine kills fascists" on his guitar.
- In an aside, Snicket refers to his friend, Mr. Sirin, a lepidopterist. "Sirin" was an early pseudonym of Vladimir Nabokov, a famous Russian-American author and noted lepidopterist.
- At one point, Sunny uses the word "Dragnet" to refer to the police. "Dragnet" is the name of an old radio and television crime-drama.
- When Klaus is typing STOP into the telegram, Sunny questions "Arrete?" which is a reference to the French verb for stop, Arreter.
The last picture of The Hospital Hospital shows Violet, Klaus, and Sunny crammed into the trunk of Count Olaf's car. Among other items in the trunk are a crystal ball, a flier with "Madame Lulu" printed across the top, and a scrap of paper on which is drawn an eye.
Letter to the Editor
NOTE: This letter has been torn to shreds, and the pieces that are missing are represented by (...).
To My Kind Editor,
I hope that this letter is not mangled by the ferocious and deadly (...) in which I am hiding now. (...) thirteen hundred nineteen and one-half miles from the restaurant where you celebrated your most recent birthday (...) may then exchange (at a near laundromat or jewelry store) for (...) look for a (...) with a long mustache. She will give you the complete manuscript of THE CARNIVOROUS CARNIVAL, along with a satchel containi- (...) --which under no circumstances should you repair-- it is (...) the last (...) survivor of the Baudel- (...) a sketch of Chabo, the Wolf Baby, and Madame Lulu pr- (...) or, at least, what is left of (...) Remember, you are my last hope that the tales of the Baudelaire orphans can finally be told to the general public.
With all due respect,
To be written.
- The term "cranioectomy", used in the book in reference to cutting off a patient's head, is not a real medical term. It is a combination of the real terms "craniotomy" and "craniectomy". This has garnered the fan joke that "it's okay to cut off someone's head as long as the name of the procedure sounds professional and scientific."
Several editions of The Hostile Hospital have been published. Some of these include foreign editions or re-prints such as: The Hostile Hospital (UK), The Hostile Hospital (UK Paperback) and Panique a la Clinique.
The Hostile Hospital (UK)
This edition has the same content as in the original one. The main difference here is the cover, which is black, has different fonts and a blue spine. Brett Helquist's illustration is also different. The book is published by Egmont. On each of the UK versions, between the coloured spine and the black cover there are narrow images depicting a reference to each books content. The Hostile Hospital features a row of heart rate lines seen on hospital equipment. This is repeated on the back cover.
The Hostile Hospital (UK Paperback)
This is a paperback version of The Hostile Hospital released in the UK by Egmont Books in 2010. It has Lemony Snicket written on the top with A Series of Unfortunate Events written below it in an eye shape.
Panique a la Clinique
This French edition, published by Nathan Poche has a very different cover, Brett Helquist's illustration is not seen here, apart for a portrait of the Baudelaires. It is almost entirely black, with a white illustration of a needle.