Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Why, oh why, did I wait so freakin' long to read this book? I seem to say that to myself a lot. You'd think I'd learn and just read the books quicker. Ha! 

Anyway, I really enjoyed this cozy mystery full of Britishness (by a Canadian author!). I am not usually a mystery reader. I give mysteries a very wide berth for some reason, but I just couldn't resist the lure of the precocious 10-year-old protagonist, Flavia de Luce. It's the year 1950 and she has a passion for poisons. And she lives in a big manor house called Buckshaw. And her father is a philatelist. And her sisters are named Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely!). And, and, and!

The trouble really starts when Flavia finds a body in the cucumber patch. This unstoppable kid begins to tease out clues and launches a full-on investigation once her father takes the fall for the crime. 

There was so much to love in this book. The rich language and the hilarious dialogue. Flavia's inner thoughts and powers of deduction are gold. It's not all slapstick and guffaws, though. At the center, Flavia is a very lonely girl. Her older sisters don't pay her a bit of attention, her father is a recluse, and her mother is dead. She is whip-smart and keeps herself busy with intellectual endeavors, but the closest thing she has to a normal "loving" family is Dogger, the PTSD gardener, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Mullet. They are annoying, but that's part of the territory, I suppose.

It was soooo easy and wonderful to sink into this book. It has a glaze of old world charm that's hard to pin down. Books like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter come to mind. But this one, of course, isn't for young readers necessarily and it's not magical in the slightest. But there's a playfulness to the language and a wealth of description that made me feel carried away in much the same way I felt in reading these other books. 

Dusty books, vials of poison, volumes of stamps, dusty furniture, bright terraces and shady graveyards. I just couldn't get enough of the setting, and that darned Flavia. I can't say that the mystery was terribly beguiling. I guessed quite a few of the twists and turns, but others genuinely took me by surprise, or I'd be wondering about the details until the last minute. And other issues were left slightly undone, but not in an annoying way. 

I just can't say enough good things. I definitely can't wait to read the next book in the series!


Pub. Date: January 2010
Publisher: Random House
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780385343497
Source: Bought it!

30 comments:

  1. OK, you've convinced me!

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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the read, because that cover is so lovely, I would probably pick up the book for that alone.

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    1. Isn't it??? I can't wait to see them all lined up on my shelves. And to read more, of course. ;)

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  3. I love Flavia something fierce. My book club read this a couple of years ago and opinions were so mixed - many HATED it. They couldn't stand Flavia and didn't believe she would actually exist in real life. I, however, am a Flavia fangirl for life. I think she's just the neatest kid ever and the atmosphere and sense of place Bradley creates is so homey. The second book isn't as good, but I'm looking forward to the third tremendously!

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    1. Awww, dude! How could they not like Flavia?? It's called suspension of disbelief! Ugh. lol Adore and can't wait to read more.

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  4. Yay!! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! Love the comparison to Lemony Snicket. hehe

    A good friend of mine who is a total Anglophile loves the whole series. :)

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    1. Hehe, I couldn't help myself! I think I've become quite the Anglophile myself. So so so fun.

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  5. Great to see another Flavia fan! I've read the first four in the series and loved them all.

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    1. Great indeed! I'm so glad you've loved them all. Can't wait to read more.

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  6. I didn't realize Bradley is Canadian. I loved Flavia!!

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    1. Yep! I didn't either until I started Googling. I wonder if he was born in the UK? Not sure.

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  7. This has been on my radar for a zillion years and yet I haven't read it. Andi, what are you doing to my TBR list?!?!

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    1. I'm adding to it, woman! You'll love this.

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  8. I am yet to read it but I have heard such great things about the series that may be I should just go ahead and start with this book. Cozy mysteries aren't my favorite genre of books but who knows, books can surprise you!

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    1. Not usually my bag either, but these are so great with so much charm and character. I hope you like them!

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  9. I usually give mysteries a wide berth too, but DAMN you make this one sound so interesting!

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    1. It's awesome! Do it! Try it! Love it!

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  10. I've read the next few in the series and I loved them just as much. It's not that the mysteries are so incredible, I just love the characters.

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    1. Exactly! I can't wait to read more.

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  11. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get to the next book! I grabbed this one from the library in my pre-blogging days. I think I was almost desperate and I certainly didn't think I would like it. I did! Who knew? :D

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    1. I just ordered the second one. Bad me! Yay for happy reading accidents!

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  12. This is one of those books I've avoided because of the hype. It's strange too because I do love mysteries and most of the time hype doesn't bother me--but this was one of the times where it did. Hopefully I will get around to trying it one of these days!

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    1. I can understand avoiding it because of hype. I did, too, for a long time, but I'm glad I finally jumped in.

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  13. We NEVER learn! I have said that so many times. . . why did I wait so long?

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

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  14. That's how I felt when I read this one, too! I think Flavia is so great. I think it's a little odd that there are SO MANY MURDERS in her area of the world ;-) But luckily for everyone, she is there! I need to get back into this series.

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    1. LOL, yes indeed. It's odd. But so cute too. And I can't often say that about murder and poisons and investigations and whatnot.

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  15. I won't even tell you how long I've had this one on my shelves...unread. Hangs head in shame. I need to read it but all the shinies!

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    1. LOL -- I completely understand. I just ordered the second one, though. Can't wait!

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