Lisa's Reviews > The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
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's review
Jul 18, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: mystery, for-book-club, mystery-series
Read from July 18 to 31, 2010

There were times that I wasn't sure if I could stick 11-year old Flavia de Luce, the poisoner-chemist prodigy of the story, for a whole book. She began as a I'm-brilliant-and-the-rest-of-you-are-cretins sort of kid with queasy-making self importance. But the character improved after the set-up and became more human and less goddess-like even in her own eyes. Still, she remained more unlikely and unconvincing than not. Sometimes I wanted to give her a swat on the backside and tell her to get over herself. If I actually had to babysit her for a day, there is a good chance that the police would have yet another mystery on their hands. Yet there are times that she seemed to be downright charming and a good egg. The at times unconvincing nature has nothing to do with her genius; I have spent plenty of time with genius kids to know that there are staggeringly brilliant children out there, and that they often seem very adult. Strong self-awareness and seemingly unnatural maturity frequently go hand in hand with giftedness. As does being a little twit. Apologies to my own children here. However, some things rang false to me. I never could tell if the book's narration was told from the point of view of the 11-year old Flavia, a slightly older Flavia looking back, or an adult Flavia. That is a rather important gaffe, indeed a narrative failure on the part of Mr. Bradley.

The mystery itself was less than clever, more on league with the complexity of Nancy Drew rather than Lord Peter Wimsey. However, the time and place were well rendered. And after the start-up, the book was good humored and pleasant enough reading although the sibling warfare was a bit thick.

There were some elements that gave me pause such as why a historically R.C. family has a King James Bible in their library, along with some other historical glitches. A plus of the book was that it was lacking in the prevasive sexual and Freudian motivations and general bloody mindedness with which many current mysteries are gorged.
There is a general tone of innocence and old fashion charm to the story.

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Reading Progress

07/18/2010 page 72
19.0% "Good so far, but less than convincing characterization at points."
07/25/2010 page 105
28.0% "The protagonist, Flavia, is becoming more convincing. Still there is some elements that are too cute for me."

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