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11 January 2015

Alan Bradley's The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie

Have you ever woken up the morning after finishing a book with a sense of utter grief after remembering that the book has been completed?

I woke up this morning, grabbed my phone, and pulled open my reading app ... and then remembered that I had finished The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie before going to bed last night. I was forlorn. I gave a little sniffle and added my next book to my GoodReads. Even though I've been looking forward to the next read, Sweetness is going to linger in my head and heart for a good long while. It almost seems unfair to read something else right away.

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie is the first in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. 

(First of all, how awesome is that name?) 

I was in love as soon as I had read the first paragraph:

The tale is told by Flavia de Luce (sometimes referred to as Flave), an 11 year old girl in 1950 England. She's obsessed with chemistry (especially poisons), tortured (literally) by her sisters (13 year old Daphne and 17 year old Ophelia), beloved by the family's live-in Jack-of-all-trades, Dogger, and often lost in the shuffle by her philatelist Father. Her mother, Harriet, disappeared when she was still an infant so she doesn't have any clear memory of her. It is said, though, that she's quite similar. 

One day a dead bird appears on their doorstep with a stamp on its beak. That night Flavia overhears an argument that her father is having with a man she doesn't know in his study. The man ends up dead in their cucumber patch, her father ends up being arrested, and Flavia ends up on the case.

It's a beautifully written book and one that I fully intend on purchasing in hardcover so I can have a copy of it "for real" on my bookshelf with my other treasured reads. Flavia, as the narrator, is a delight with "her" descriptions and observations. Considering that Alan Bradley is a 70 year old Canadian man writing as an 11 year old English girl, this is quite the amazing feat. The way she works out the problems that she is faced with made me hoot, more than once, "You go, girl!" There were also times when I wanted to wrap her in my arms and give her a giant well-deserved snuggle.

After-the-fact I read some of the negative reviews on GoodReads. Several of them complained about Flavia being a brat. Well, she IS eleven. And they complained about how "unrealistic" it was for her to be so knowledgeable about chemistry and for her sister Daphne to be so well-read. I call poppycock. I started sitting in on my mom's college courses when I was about 8 or 9. I read whatever the professors assigned and became enchanted with Shakespeare and Thornton Wilder and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not typical reading material for most children. I also went through a phase of knowing more than a child "should" about aeronautics. And architecture. And I'm fairly certain that if I lived on an estate with a fully decked out chemistry lab with a complete library of chemistry texts that I would have known more than a typical child about chemistry. There's absolutely nothing wrong with not being typical.


Earlier I mentioned on the Facebook page about how I was breaking my attempt at being random and going back to doing my A to Zs in order. And then I got thinking about how if I just did THAT it would take me a freaking eon to get back to my dear Flavia. And THEN I got thinking about how this is, still, the 125th birthday year of Agatha Christie and how I still really want to read a crapton of Poirot's. SOOOOO here's the Thing for the Thing:
Alphabet, Series, Random, Alphabet, Christie
Lather, rinse, repeat.
SO I did A (Auxier), then a Series (Peter Shandy), a Random (the CYOA), B (Bradley) and now next up:

Amazon Affiliate Link:
GoodReads Blurb:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot Series #1)

Poirot, a Belgian refugee of the Great War, is settling in England near the home of Emily Inglethorp, who helped him to his new life. His friend Hastings arrives as a guest at her home. When the woman is killed, Poirot uses his detective skills to solve the mystery.


  1. Intriguing review! I now want to read this book.

    1. If you do I hope you love it, Kathy!!!