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Sweetness at Bottom of Pie > The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

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message 1: by Viviana D. (new)

Viviana D. Otero (vivianaotero) | 29 comments Mod
Read my review on this book. Fantastic read!


message 2: by Viviana D. (new)

Viviana D. Otero (vivianaotero) | 29 comments Mod
As children, some of us have felt the need to find an adventurous tale that would leave a fantastic footnote in our youth. Somehow, we needed that sense of wonder that separated us from adults. Whether it was a trip to an unknown area, to a mysterious investigation about our new neighbors next door, we needed the adventure in our lives. In Alan Bradley’s delightful novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; however, we find ourselves trotting along with an amazing eleven-year-old girl who is on a quest to solve a gruesome murder. Far from what we ever imagined to experience ourselves, Bradley’s heroine, Flavia de Luce, decides to gather the clues that will eventually lead to the unveiling of the truth. Bradley’s debut novel is a 1950’s mystery-tale, written in a meticulous first person narrative that deals with the unscrambling of secrets and the solution of a crime. In The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie, Bradley shows a marvelous capacity to depict the narrator’s intelligent and determined voice, and his portrayal of the setting is faultless.

The Delightful Flavia de Luce

Even though we see Flavia de Luce riding in her bicycle that she named Gladys, we quickly learn that she is not an average eleven-year-old girl who lives in a town in England. Her relationship to her two sisters, Ophelia and Daphne is sour, and unfortunately, she does not have a positive female role model due to her mother’s death when she was very young. On her won, Ms. De Luce enjoys passing time by working on her latest experiments in her very own chemistry lab. Flavia tells us that once she and her bicycle Gladys “had ridden all morning to look for an inn where Richard Mead was said to have stayed a single night in 1747. Richard (or Dick, as I sometimes referred to him) was the author of A Mechanical Account of Poisons in Several Essays. Published in 1702, it was the first book on the subject in the English language, a first edition of which was the pride of my chemical library. In my bedroom portrait gallery, I kept his likeness stuck to the looking-glass alongside those of” several noteworthy men.(130)¹
Flavia is extremely bright, and she quickly realizes that she must investigate the clues left behind in order to free her father from a murder charge. She is self-reliant and self-motivated with a fearless approach to seek the true villain of a slain man just outside the garden to her home. At the beginning of chapter twenty, we get a glimpse of Flavia’s dazzling notes about the possible perpetrators of the murder. She pedantically lists the names of thirteen individuals, their motive and probable scenarios.
Flavia’s personality reminds us about the memorable, fictitious, heroic Huckleberry Finn in Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both Huck and Flavia are spirited children who expect the world to obey certain rules, but when those rules change, they are both thrown off course. Huck and Flavia, however; remain loyal to those they love, and they are valiant against injustice. We can almost hear Huck in Flavia’s authentic voice when she says, “I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did.”(74)¹

Setting

The De Luce family lives at the Buckshaw Estate. Flavia is intrinsically mesmerized by the beauty of the third century Georgian house when she says, “As I climbed over the last stile and Buckshaw came into view across the field, it almost took my breath away. It was from this angle and at this time of day that I loved it most. As I approached from the west, the mellow old stone glowed like saffron in the late afternoon sun, well settled into the landscape like a complacent mother hen squatting on her eggs, with the Union Jack stretching itself contentedly overhead.”(105)³ Through a masterful use of simile, Bradley clearly reveals to us a magnificent portrait of the estate and its surroundings.
In addition, Bradley describes a well-structured picture of the interior of the house, “Buckshaw possessed two grand staircases, each one winding down in a sinuous mirror image of the other, from the first floor, coming to earth just short of the black painted line that divided the checker-tiled foyer. My staircase, from the ‘tar,’ or east wing, terminated in that great echoing painted hall beyond which, over against the west wing, was the firearm museum, and behind it, Father’s study.”(24)¹ Moreover, In an almost fairy-like voice; we hear Flavia speak about the dreamlike view of Buckshaw’s garden, “As I stepped outside, I saw that the silver light of dawn had transformed the garden into a magic glade, its shadows darkened by the thin band of day beyond the walls. Sparkling dew lay upon everything, and I should not have been at all surprised if a unicorn had stepped from behind a rosebush and tried to put its head in my lap.”(27)¹
As we continue to witness Flavia’s travels with Gladys, we are given a glimpse of Buckshaw’s many surroundings. Bradley’s flawless personification of the near by school gives its edifices and its environment and almost human-like existence. “Greyminster School lay dozing in the sun, as if it were dreaming of past glories. The place was precisely as I imagined it: magnificent old stone buildings, tidy green lawns running down to the lazy river, and vast, empty playing fields that seemed to give off silent echoes of cricket matches whose players were long dead.”(225)¹ The historical echoes of the school are part of an important layer of Flavia’s acceptance of what is sacred in her life. She enjoys the splendor of the natural world and she embraces its beauty.

A Delightful Pie

Flavia de Luce unmistakably reminds us that “Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie!” The quote, by William King form The Art of Cookery (1708), was undoubtedly the inspiration behind Alan Bradley’s title. Flavia may not be a dazzling flower in the outside, but she clearly possesses a bountiful spirit that delights even the most pungent weed in the novel. Her sisters are fixated in looking beautiful, but their bitter personality revolts us. Flavia’s father may live in a grandeur estate, but in the end, he is completely broke. Each character, including the guilty murderer, is exposed in an unmerciful manner. Bradley’s message lectures us that as long as we taste the delightfulness in our lives, we won’t mind each bitter layer of the pie; and we will be rewarded with a blissful, unforgettable end.

Note: Don’t forget to pick up a copy of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and the second Flavia de Luce mystery The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (available now in your local bookstores or online). BRACE YOUSELVES! According to Bradley, there will be five Flavia de Luce mystery series in total.

1. Bradley, Alan. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. New York: Bantam Books, 2010.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) by Alan Bradley


message 3: by JackieB (new)

JackieB The third book in the series is "A Red Herring Without Mustard" and is out in the UK in about three weeks (on 3rd March). I wish there were going to be more than five books though.


message 4: by Viviana D. (new)

Viviana D. Otero (vivianaotero) | 29 comments Mod
I can't wait to read the second one. I am reading a LONG book now, so when I am done I will begin Bradley's second book. I can't wait!


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