Monday, August 17, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

I know all you RHE readers have been waiting with great anticipation to find out which book I finally committed to reading all those many moons ago. Thank goodness the survey forced me into a decision and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was the lucky book I got to read. I am so thankful that's what got the most votes because I was already four chapters in and it was easier to commit to it. Now that I've read it, you smart people who voted for it were very insightful. It was a fun read.

Flavia de Luce is the eleven-year-old daughter of a formerly wealthy British family who spends her time doing chemistry experiments and tormenting her vain and clueless older sisters. The book is set in 1950s England and Flavia has all the freedoms that most eleven-year-olds don't get any more. Like riding her bike to neighboring villages, the town library, and the police station. Seriously, what kid does that any more or has that kind of freedom? Or has parents that are that oblivious to what their kid is up to? But without those kinds of parameters, Flavia never would have solved the mystery of the murder committed on her family's land.

Flavia's father is a philatelist, or stamp collector, and the story revolves around two stamps that are unique and priceless. One is owned by the king of England, then stolen by the same man who stole its twin, who also happens to be the man murdered outside Flavia's window. Flavia's father is accused of the murder, due to his shady past in connection with the man and one other small piece of evidence: his confession. Flavia is pretty sure her father didn't commit the murder and is also fairly certain who he's trying to protect. She goes about her investigation to prove both of them innocent but unravels a whole ball of tangled yarn.

The characters definitely make the book from her vain sisters, their batty housekeeper, the flirtacious stablehand, and the petite and obnoxious piano teacher to the villain you think exists and the villain that is slowly revealed. Flavia is the best of them all as her persistent, intelligent, nosy, creative, and brave self. She's makes connections beyond her years, which is fine because this is fiction after all, but she never gets too far outside of reality to make the book a joke. She is what I kind of wished I was like as an eleven-year-old and I definitely would have wanted her as my co-conspirator. But she's not the type of child your parents would want you to spend time with, what with the obsession with poisons and all.

There's a sequel due to be out sometime and I'm putting it on the list. I love a good mystery, a good villain, and best of all, an amazing detective. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie fits all those categories.


  1. I'm glad you read it. Now I know for sure to add it to my ever growing to-read list. It sounds fantastic!

  2. I just finished it, and it was a fun read. Just when Flavia would almost cross the line for me, she would do or think something to redeem herself and reassure me that her quirks were just that (and not a sign of some creepy sociopath-in-the-making). While I didn't feel great affection for her, I would happily follow her on another adventure, so I look forward to hearing about the sequel!

    As a side note, I think it's supposed to take place in the early summer. But reading it in early November made me picture everything in the light of a waning autumn with nature's cycle of death echoing the loneliness and aura of the macabre that surrounded Flavia. It was perfect, even if that wasn't the setting Bradley had in mind. I think I'll recommend it for our book club next October, since it would make a fun Halloween read!