Tuesday, March 09, 2010

153 (2010 #18). The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley

I'll admit up front that mysteries are among my least favorite genres. I only read this book because it was chosen by an online book discussion group I belong to (the leader is excellent).

I had a hard time getting through this 370-page book. The main character, 11-year-old precocious genius Flavia de Luce, with her passion for chemistry and poison, is just not believable. The book is supposed to be set in 1950 in England, but at times it feels like it's set in the Victorian era. Narrated by Flavia, she often says or thinks ridiculous things like the following (from page 23):
Taking care not to jiggle the curtains, I peeked out into the kitchen garden just as the moon obligingly came out from behind a cloud to illuminate the scene, much as it would in a first-rate production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Oh please.

Some in our discussion group felt Flavia was a lot like Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, but Hermione's braininess fits in a fantasy series about a bunch of wizards.

The other characters - Flavia's talented but seemingly airheaded two older sisters (Ophelia aka "Feely" and Daphne aka "Daffy"), her stamp-collection widower father, the cook, the mysterious factotum (Flavia's word) Dogger, the gruff Inspector who eventually grudgingly admires Flavia - they're all stereotypes. The plot of the mystery is weak, and the book is too wordy and full of similes and metaphors. Its (unnecessary) length, and the unrealistic vocabulary and obscure references used by an 11-year-old (she usually sounds like a 70-year-old--coincidentay, the age of this first-time author) also means the book won't work for older children or young adults either.

There will be more books in this series, but I'm not planning to read them. I did like the cover though.

[This book was borrowed through interlibrary loan, and goes back tomorrow.]

© Amanda Pape - 2010


  1. For some reason, the little bit you quoted made me think of Artemis Fowl. Do you think you'd have been more likely to enjoy the book if you were a mystery lover, or did you just all-around dislike it? Although the title sounds familiar, this isn't one I've read or know much about, but I agree that the cover is nice.

  2. I usually like mysteries but I really only like contemporary stories. When I read historical stuff I keep thinking things Like "she would have a cell phone today" which keeps me from getting into the story. I like the cover also.