Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Group Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery Summary: It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.  For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” ~randomhouse.com

Alice's Review:  I found this sweet little mystery at the library at work, by library I mean about 20 or so books left by employees for the use of others. I picked it up for two reasons. The first is that it’s set in the 50s and the second is that I loved the main character’s name, Flavia de Luce. I know those are not exactly the best reason to choose reading material, but that oddness never failed me before. And it hasn’t failed me yet.

When I first read the back cover, I thought Flavia was much older. I wasn’t expecting a quirky 11 year old. I’m glad that’s what I got. Flavia and her cast of slightly off-center characters were fantastic. I can’t say enough about what a unique character Flavia is. She has moxie, a great sense of humor, and she has a “passion for poison.” Not only is this novel a mystery but it’s laced with humor, especially in the ongoing feud between Flavia and her sisters Ophelia and Daphne.

There were a few things I loved about this novel, underlying things that Mr. Bradley snuck in there that completely tugged at my heart strings. Flavia has a slightly troublesome relationship with her sisters. They treat her like the little sister and try to make her life as difficult as possible (when they are not ignoring her, that is). She’s not fazed by this and gives it right back to them. I love how she refers to one of her sisters as the Devil’s Hairball. Yeah, I’m pretty sure those are fighting words. There are times when she feels alone and unloved yet she doesn’t let that affect her. One of my favorite things about her is while riding Gladys, her trusty rusty bicycle, she thinks to herself, “I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did.”

I was thoroughly impressed with the way Mr. Bradley showed Flavia’s vulnerable qualities. He does it in such a way that it reminded me she is only 11 years old, much younger than she acts. She has a yearning for her mother, who passed away when Flavia was born. She is a bit envious of her sisters, of their memories of Harriet. She even refers to her as Harriet. The mother she never knew, just a woman who happened to give birth to her.

Another great surprise was Flavia’s relationship with her father’s wartime friend Dogger. Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress, Dogger keeps to himself. The only one he bothers with is Flavia and I believe she loves him the most, more than her selfish sisters and absentee father. He’s the one she turns too when she finds the dead body and he’s the one she keeps going back to for help and comfort. 

Overall, I found the mystery to be entertaining at best. But more than the actual mystery, it was Flavia who kept me coming back. She’s the one who made me want to keep flipping the pages to see what happens next. Although at this time I’m not in a rush to read more in this series, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good mystery and an unlikely heroine.

Alice's Final Take: 4/5

Julie's Review: Hmmm, I was wrong. I was wrong about the mystery in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It seemed so simple to me. I figured it was simple so that we could get to know Flavia and the cast of characters that will (I bet) continually pop up in the series. Did I love this book? Not really. Did I love Flavia? YES!! She is a gem, a dynamo and smart as a whip. I wish I had her brains when I was her age. Ok, I wish I had her brains now! She is a delight. I love how the book was told from her point of view and not 3rd person. It really wouldn't have worked well if told any other way. We get to know her view of her family and the world. Does it skew things? Of course, but I had no problem with that. Her sister's live in their own little world and treat Flavia like she's a tick that they can't get off their backs.

I honestly didn't really care too much for the mystery. It didn't intrigue me. I can't really put my finger on why though. I think I was more interested in the way Flavia was going about trying to figure it out, than the actual murder/mystery it's self.

I loved all the character's in the book and had a good time visualizing her part of the English countryside and Buckshaw during the 1950s. Although, at times I did feel like I was reading a book set in the late 1800s because of the writing style. 

While I said I didn't love The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, it certainly isn't going to stop me from reading the rest of the series and seeing what other kinds of messes Flavia can get herself wrapped up in. So far there are a total of 4 books in the series. The next one is: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.

Julie's Final Take: 3.75/5



Marce July 26, 2011 at 2:34 PM  

Great reviews. I totally agree with both. Flavia was my favourite character last year, so is memorable for sure even if the mystery is not.

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