Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte
Release Date: April 28, 2009

Cover Impressions: I really like the simplicity of this cover.  The symbols are very fitting and the color really makes it stand out on the shelf. 

The Gist:
Flavia de Luce is a remarkable 11 year old.  She is fascinated by Chemistry, particularly poisons.  With a dead bird on her doorstep and a dead body in her garden, Flavia endeavors to put her prodigious wealth of knowledge to the test and solve not one, but two murder mysteries.   

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie felt a little like an overly large piece of dessert, delicious and comforting for the first few forkfuls but sickly sweet after one bite too many.  Flavia de Luce is overly precocious and more than a little too intelligent to be believable.  her ability to wax poetically about any subject, from history to music to lock picking, made her feel much older than her 11 years and tended to distract from the plot.  Her manner of speaking felt like it fit with a time period far removed from the 1950's and her level of freedom to roam the countryside without a word of caution from any adults was concerning.  I enjoyed Flavia's quick wit and the tumultuous relationship with her sisters but failed to see even a spark of caring to balance out the ire between them. 

The plot of this novel centered around two murder mysteries which were richly woven through time and included elements of illusion and sleight of hand.  Ultimately however, the identity of the killer was a little too predictable and I would have preferred a nice plot twist.  Secrets were often revealed through long winded speeches and details were repeated endlessly as Flavia mulled them over in her mind.  There were moments when she was discovering a connection that I was certain she had actually made 10 or 15 pages earlier.  The flashes of chemical knowledge that were of great interest to me as a Science teacher, became more and more complicated as the plot wore on.  If my eyes were glazing over at these descriptions I can only imagine a person with little to no Scientific background would skim or abandon these sections altogether.  The writing itself tended to be a little long winded and I found myself losing interest during several rambling sessions.

I do not believe that I will continue with this series.  While I enjoyed the IDEA of Flavia de Luce, pint sized chemist and part time investigator, I could not connect with the way that the character was executed and I think my time might be better spent with other child wonders.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up (for reading level rather than content)
Gender: Either
Sex: None
Violence: Death by poisoning, death by blunt force trauma, kidnapping.
Inappropriate Language: Damn
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking
Other Issues: Character describes having impersonated a stereotypical Asian man, included use of yellow face paint, pinning of eyes and racist accent.

Notable Quotables:

"If there is a thing I truly despise, it is being addressed as 'dearie.' When I write my magnum opus, A Treatise Upon All Poisons, and come to 'Cyanide,' I am going to put under 'Uses' the phrase 'Particularly efficacious in the cure of those who call one 'Dearie'"


Liesel K Hill said...

Hadn't heard of this one before. Thanks for the honest review! ;D

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