Linda C'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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Jan 11, 2011

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bookshelves: read-2011
Read in January, 2011

Very neutral on this book. Never would have chosen it, if we hadn't picked it as the book club selection. That being said, there were some really good parts and some, umm, not so good parts.

To begin with, it took me a really long time to start thinking that maybe there was something to this book. The first 50 pages were like watching paint dry. Although I thought the beginning of the book was very clever, with Flavia being locked in the closet by her sisters, that momentum didn't carry through the book. The story didn't pick up until mid-way through, and even there, there were a lot of draggy parts. Too many things that were unecessary, such as the numerous discussions of Gladys the bike. Speaking of which, that annoyed me every time. So Flavia is riding her bike somewhere, big deal. Most kids ride bikes, generally bikes without names. It didn't make her look smart; it just made her look silly.

Also numerous useless characters, such as Max the piano teacher. What was the point of his character? He was boring, boring, boring, yet there had to be at least 20 pages, if they were all added up about Max. His ultimate contribution, I believe, was to tell Flavia that the old school master was still alive. Could have been achieved in 2-3 paragraphs at most.

Too many of the characters were one-dimensional. I understand that this was Flavia's story-- after all, the author already titled it "a Flavia De Luce mystery", implying that there will be others, which was somewhat presumptious, one would think. In any case, the only character that had any substance was Flavia, and she wasn't particularly likeable. As another reader pointed out, the rivalry between the sisters was unrealistic, it was taken to such extremes. Even siblings that fight like cats and dogs are there for each other in emergencies and these girls weren't.

As for the father, I didn't buy the idea that the one-dimensional man (exactly HOW did this man support his family?) could have captured the heart of the mountain-climbing Harriet. Speaking of Harriet, first how irresponsible was she, to go off adventuring with three little girls at home? Then, as she had "disappeared" rather than died, I kept thinking that she would make an re-appearance somewhere in the book, having had amnesia in the Himalayas for 10 years or something. Alas, no, so perhaps that is for a later Flavia De Luce mystery.

Lastly, the mystery itself, I didn't buy it. Clever parts (and I actually quite liked the police inspector, possibly the best character in the book), but, too much was based on unlikely and unbelievable coincidences. Probably the biggest example was the librarian, who just happened be substituting for the regular librarian on the day that Flavia went to read the old newspapers, and the woman just happened to the niece of the dead professor etc. etc. etc. Or the old head master burning up his prized possesion? What was up with that? Totally unbelievable. Another thing that irked me was how Flavia was captive in the pit with the hankerchief in her mouth for hours, yet a tiny little square of paper came out undamaged???

Well, this book will make for a great discussion at book club!

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