Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley [TSS]

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
ISBN: 9780385343497
Pages: 416
Release Date: April 28, 2009
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Mystery
Source: Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Flavia de Luce is eleven years old and a science wizard. She lives in the “big house” outside Bishop’s Lacey, a small English village. Within the corridors of her old, rambling house where she lives with her father and two sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, is her chemistry lab, her place of solace. The main use of her lab is to make the lives of her older sisters miserable, until a dead bird is left on their doorstep. While Flavia tries to make sense of this mystery, something even bigger happens: Flavia finds the dead body of a red-headed stranger in the garden. Secretly delighted by this turn of events, as it’s the most exciting thing that has ever happened to her, Flavia begins to inquire into the man’s death, trying to discover who he was and why he was in their garden.

Review:

I have heard a lot of great things about The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, but it took me a long time to get to it. Part of the reason was because, though I really wanted to read it, I was a bit apprehensive. The gushing had been so strong that my expectations were very high. Therefore, I put it off until I’d heard my share of negative reviews in order to temper my expectations, and I’m so glad I did. While I really did enjoy this book, I’m not sure I would have if I had read it in that initial wave of praise.

Flavia was a very interesting, complicated character. Some have said she’s too self-satisfied, and unbelievably knowledgeable and resourceful for her age. While those arguments are understandable, upon my reading, it made sense. Flavia has been shut up in an old house for most of her life, without any friends her age. Though she can leave for town whenever she wants to, she usually chooses to stay at home with her books and chemistry lab. As a result, Flavia’s mind works like an adult’s. While unusually precocious, she doesn’t know what it is to act like a child because she’s never really been around any. With that in mind, it was much easier to accept her intelligence and skills of deduction without having to make too far of a leap. Still, if you can’t suspend that disbelief and accept Flavia as she is, this book will not be enjoyable. (That being said, she is very self-satisfied, a quality that irked me at times.)

The mystery within Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was intriguing and well-crafted. While the story moved slowly at the beginning, it definitely picked up its pace as Flavia deduced more and more. It’s not a huge puzzle, though, and as a result it’s easy to guess the culprit before Flavia figures it out. Despite this fact, it was a fun mystery, made all the more entertaining by the wacky characters that Flavia encounters.

Alan Bradley already has a sequel to his hit debut novel out, called The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. I already have it and hope to read it soon. It’s good to know that the reader can revisit Flavia and the town of Bishop’s Lacey, as they are too large for just one book. The characters are really what make the first book in this series worth reading. However, if you can’t accept them for what they are, then this novel is likely not for you.

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Comments

  1. As you know I just couldn’t get into this one. I found the main character too abrupt and whiny. 🙁

  2. As you know I just couldn’t get into this one. I found the main character too abrupt and whiny. 🙁

  3. I’m interested to see how I react to this character. I’ve got kids this age consuming my life, so will I find it charming or annoying? We will see. Like you, I’ve been waiting to pick it up until after the fervor dies down.

  4. I’m interested to see how I react to this character. I’ve got kids this age consuming my life, so will I find it charming or annoying? We will see. Like you, I’ve been waiting to pick it up until after the fervor dies down.

  5. I really enjoyed this and had no problem suspending my belief:) But then I didn’t really read that many reviews prior to reading this book and only vaguely knew about the story. Hope you enjoy the sequel!

  6. I really enjoyed this and had no problem suspending my belief:) But then I didn’t really read that many reviews prior to reading this book and only vaguely knew about the story. Hope you enjoy the sequel!

  7. I loved the first book, and loved Flavia in the second (although I didn’t think the mystery in the second one held up as well as in the first). The third one is due in April, and I’ll definitely buy it.

  8. I loved the first book, and loved Flavia in the second (although I didn’t think the mystery in the second one held up as well as in the first). The third one is due in April, and I’ll definitely buy it.

  9. I listened to this one and loved Flavia (the reader was great!) but haven’t felt the need to pick up the second book.

  10. I listened to this one and loved Flavia (the reader was great!) but haven’t felt the need to pick up the second book.

  11. Glad you liked it! I’m saving the second book for next year. I tried to read them back to back but the second one felt redundant to me that way. I’m hoping it’ll feel better last year.

  12. Glad you liked it! I’m saving the second book for next year. I tried to read them back to back but the second one felt redundant to me that way. I’m hoping it’ll feel better last year.

  13. Next year, I mean…

  14. Next year, I mean…

  15. I’ve heard good things about Flavia, but I totally agree–the hype would have killed this one for me.

  16. I’ve heard good things about Flavia, but I totally agree–the hype would have killed this one for me.

  17. I love Flavia! Yes, she was a bit precocious, but I think that added to her charm.

  18. I love Flavia! Yes, she was a bit precocious, but I think that added to her charm.

  19. I listened to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on audio and, while I liked having Flavia brought to life, the narrator was just a tad annoying to me. I did like the story, though. I’m hoping to read the second book, but I think I’ll do it in print instead of listening.

  20. I listened to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on audio and, while I liked having Flavia brought to life, the narrator was just a tad annoying to me. I did like the story, though. I’m hoping to read the second book, but I think I’ll do it in print instead of listening.

  21. This one is on my shelf so I am glad to see you liked it…someday I’ll get to it!

  22. This one is on my shelf so I am glad to see you liked it…someday I’ll get to it!

  23. I just did not enjoy this book at all and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Oh well, to each his own, right.

  24. I just did not enjoy this book at all and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Oh well, to each his own, right.

  25. I liked this one, too. I remember next to nothing about the mystery, but I liked Flavia.

  26. I liked this one, too. I remember next to nothing about the mystery, but I liked Flavia.

  27. I know just what you mean about this book. There has been an awful lot of hype surrounding it, and like you, it has kind of made me a little apprehensive about reading it. I am glad to have seen this review, though, as it seems like you were able to enjoy it, even if Flavia was a little self satisfied. I might have to check this out when I can. It doesn’t sound half bad!

  28. I know just what you mean about this book. There has been an awful lot of hype surrounding it, and like you, it has kind of made me a little apprehensive about reading it. I am glad to have seen this review, though, as it seems like you were able to enjoy it, even if Flavia was a little self satisfied. I might have to check this out when I can. It doesn’t sound half bad!

  29. I really enjoyed Flavia. For me, the books are more about her than the mysteries, which are not as “strong” as they might be in other books. But, to me, it didn’t matter. I just enjoyed Flavia so much!

  30. I really enjoyed Flavia. For me, the books are more about her than the mysteries, which are not as “strong” as they might be in other books. But, to me, it didn’t matter. I just enjoyed Flavia so much!

  31. I’ve been waiting for the hubbub to die down on this one too, but I’ve been on a mystery kick lately and hope to read this one soon.

  32. I’ve been waiting for the hubbub to die down on this one too, but I’ve been on a mystery kick lately and hope to read this one soon.

  33. I have a feeling that I’m going to like this one.

  34. I have a feeling that I’m going to like this one.

  35. I found Flavia CUTE~! But I am not done with this book yet!

  36. I found Flavia CUTE~! But I am not done with this book yet!

  37. Wow! I do the same thing with books that are receiving TONS of praise … I just don’t want to go in with higher expectations, BUT I’ve found that many of them are worth the praise .. the Stiegg Larsson books (I’ve only read the first, but .. BAM!), The Hunger Games trilogy, Room by Emma Donoghue. This book sounds like one that both I AND my daughters would like! Thanks for the review!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

  38. Wow! I do the same thing with books that are receiving TONS of praise … I just don’t want to go in with higher expectations, BUT I’ve found that many of them are worth the praise .. the Stiegg Larsson books (I’ve only read the first, but .. BAM!), The Hunger Games trilogy, Room by Emma Donoghue. This book sounds like one that both I AND my daughters would like! Thanks for the review!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

  39. I loved Flavia and loved the reader for the audio. But, like Kathy, I haven’t yet read the second book.

  40. I loved Flavia and loved the reader for the audio. But, like Kathy, I haven’t yet read the second book.

  41. I loved Jayne Entwistle’s reading of Sweetness. She brought Flavia to life. I also love Alan Bradley’s story. He won the Debut Dagger award for Sweetness when he was 73 years old. Proof positive that it is never too old to live your dream. Thanks for the review.
    -Anne
    http://headfullofbooks.blogspot.com

  42. I loved Jayne Entwistle’s reading of Sweetness. She brought Flavia to life. I also love Alan Bradley’s story. He won the Debut Dagger award for Sweetness when he was 73 years old. Proof positive that it is never too old to live your dream. Thanks for the review.
    -Anne
    http://headfullofbooks.blogspot.com

  43. I’ve heard so many good things about this one I figure it can wait a while to come around my TBR list. The good ones are always worth the wait.

  44. I’ve heard so many good things about this one I figure it can wait a while to come around my TBR list. The good ones are always worth the wait.

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