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message 1: by Suzanne, moderator (new)

Suzanne Moore (suzeq) | 111 comments Mod
1. With her high level of knowledge, her erudition and her self-reliance, Flavia hardly seems your typical eleven-year-old girl. Or does she? Discuss Flavia and her personality, and how her character drives this novel. Can you think of other books that have used a similar protagonist?

2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie falls within the tradition of English country house mysteries, but with the devilishly intelligent Flavia racing around Bishop’s Lacey on her bike instead of the expected older woman ferreting out the truth by chatting with her fellow villagers. Discuss how Bradley uses the traditions of the genre, and how he plays with them too.

3. What is your favorite scene from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie?

4. With her excessive interest in poisons and revenge, it’s no surprise that Flavia is fascinated, not scared, as she watches the stranger die in her garden. In your view, is her dark matter-of-factness more refreshing or disturbing?

5. Flavia reminds us often about Harriet, the mother she never knew, and has many keepsakes that help her imagine what she was like. Do you think the real Harriet would have fit into Flavia’s mold?

6. Flavia’s distance from her father, the Colonel, is obvious, yet she loves him all the same. Does their relationship change over the course of the novel in a lasting way? Would Flavia want it to?

7. Through Flavia’s eyes what sort of a picture does Alan Bradley paint of the British aristocracy? Think as well about how appearances aren’t always reality, as with the borderline bankruptcy of Flavia’s father and Dr. Kissing.

8. Discuss the meaning (or meanings) of the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

9. What twists in the plot surprised you the most?

10. Buckshaw, the estate, is almost a character in its own right here, with its overlarge wings, hidden laboratory, and pinched front gates. Talk about how Bradley brings the setting to life in this novel – not only Buckshaw itself, but Bishop’s Lacey and the surrounding area.

11. What does Flavia care about most in life? How do the people around her compare to her chemistry lab and books?

12. Like any scientist. Flavia expects her world to obey certain rules, and seems to be thrown off kilter when surprises occur. How much does she rely on the predictability of those around her, like her father and her sisters, in order to pursue her own interests (like solving the murder)?


message 2: by Holly (new)

Holly Morey (paintandputter) | 32 comments Mod
Okay everyone here goes. This may surprise many of you but I really liked this book. Flavia is a smart typical 11 year old of the 50's. She has a vivid imagination and is constantly questioning her surroundings. She is picked on by her older sisters, plans her revenge, and is largely ignored by all adults, with the exception of Dogger. I liked the quirkiness of the story and mystery.


message 3: by Suzanne, moderator (new)

Suzanne Moore (suzeq) | 111 comments Mod
Holly wrote: "Okay everyone here goes. This may surprise many of you but I really liked this book. Flavia is a smart typical 11 year old of the 50's. She has a vivid imagination and is constantly questioning her..."

She definitely is smart ... I don't know many her age that have that much knowledge and are able to think quick on the spot like she did.


message 4: by Suzanne, moderator (new)

Suzanne Moore (suzeq) | 111 comments Mod
3. I can't recall a favorite scene so to speak, but there are some favorite quotes that I visualize with much amusement ....

"Seed biscuits and milk! I hated Mrs. Mullet's seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin. Perhaps even more so. I wanted to clamber up onto the table, and with a sausage on the end of a fork as my scepter, shout in my best Laurence Olivier voice, 'Will no one rid us of this turbulent pastry cook?"

"There was no way out; not, at least, in this direction. I was like a hamster that had climbed to the top of the ladder in its cage and found there was nowhere to go but down. But surely hamsters knew in their hamster hearts that escape was futile; it was only we humans who were incapable of accepting our own helplessness."


message 5: by Linda, moderator (new)

Linda Rowland | 33 comments Mod
I am really enjoying this read. In addition these are some of the best questions yet. I will take a better look at them when I finish the book.


message 6: by Mitzi (new)

Mitzi | 1 comments I really enjoyed this book. Flavia was indeed a very smart and brave 11 year old. I had no trouble envisioning her in whatever her surroundings were. I think it was a great idea for the author to make Flavia the narrator. She definitely had a knack for detail, a vivid imagination and was very descriptive. I had not read a mystery like this in a long time and I loved it. I am disappointed that I will miss the discussion.


message 7: by Suzanne, moderator (new)

Suzanne Moore (suzeq) | 111 comments Mod
Mitzi wrote: "I really enjoyed this book. Flavia was indeed a very smart and brave 11 year old. I had no trouble envisioning her in whatever her surroundings were. I think it was a great idea for the author to..."

We will miss you Mitzi!


message 8: by Carrie (new)

Carrie (goodreadscomkeridwynn) I just finished listening to the audiobook last Friday (the 18th). I did enjoy it enough to give it 4 stars :). Probably the hardest part for me to get through was the fact that she was 11 years old--it's not that I can't believe that an 11-year-old can't be that smart, nor that she can be mature for her age, either. It's hard to pinpoint really what it was. Once I got past that, I was able to enjoy the story, which the plot was great! And what really made Flavia endearing was her Wednesday Addams-like outlook and her interest in poisons/chemistry.

I can't wait to discuss the book more this Saturday in person.


message 9: by Suzanne, moderator (new)

Suzanne Moore (suzeq) | 111 comments Mod
Discuss the meaning (or meanings) of the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Flavia is a precocious 11 year-old girl who finds herself in the middle of murder mystery. She knows where to go for answers ... the library. After researching the victim's history at the library she uncovers a scandal over a missing valuable stamp. Her thoughts analyze details of events leading up to the discovery of a dying man, and her father's penchant for stamps collecting. The family cook has just made a fresh custard pie and left it to cool, when one piece is mysteriously missing. Another fatality surfaces when a dead snipe is found on the front doorstep with a stamp stuck to its bill. Flavia schemes throughout to clear her father's name when he is accused. She even tries to take the blame herself, after all she was the one who discovered the body. She is obsessed with chemistry and uses her knowledge of chemical reactions to help determine the cause of death. She is brave and faces evil as she begins to unravel the mystery of the murder. In the end she learns a lot about her father and feels that their father-daughter relationship has reached another level.

I don't know if I got the title's connection to the overall story. I think I have a hang-up about titles and look for ways they can sum up the essence of a book. Sometimes titles are metaphors for a story's message. Maybe titles are a way to trigger memories of what was read. I know there is more than one way to interpret things, but I tried imagining that Flavia represented the sweetness; as the youngest child she was at the bottom in pecking order. The "pie" could represent the whole family unit, or clues (pieces of pie) that make up the whole mystery.

I really liked the quote “Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares about the crinkle of the pie.”
The action certainly revolved around Flavia and without her insight there wouldn't be much to comment on concerning the mystery.


message 10: by Carrie (new)

Carrie (goodreadscomkeridwynn) Here is (finally) my review in GR for Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


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