Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - first in the Flavia de Luce series
by Alan Bradley
mystery, 2009
finished, 2/20/10

I have been waiting for this for ages. I had the paperback on pre-order from The Book Depository, and began to read almost as soon as it arrived. I like the cover much better than the more familiar one with the dead bird.

This book report will likely come as a surprise to you. I know it does to me. I just didn't care much for this book. I know. I'm amazed. I was just positive I was going to not just like it, but love it. It seemed perfect. Young girl, 1950, England, a mystery. All the components of a great story for me. Right from the start I didn't like it. I didn't like the cruelty of the sisters toward Flavia. I didn't like the names: Ophelia, nicknamed 'Feely;' Daphne, 'Daffy;' Flavia, 'Flave'.

Flavia just didn't seem real to me. She was not an endearing character to me. I just thought she was weird. Probably a genius. Probably a savant. Certainly a lonely, and possibly a not loved, little girl. Her language and her literary, scientific, and cultural references simply seemed unbelievable to me. And her penchant for poisons is more than a little weird. She is fascinated by death. Her mother died in a mountaineering accident when Flavia was very small, and sadly she has no memories of her mother. For some reason, as I read the book, I kept thinking we were going to find out that it was either 1. not an accident or 2. she didn't really die. But nothing whatsoever happened to confirm my wonderings. Flavia and her sisters do not get along. The book opens with Flavia tied up and locked in a room by her sisters. There is an incident where Flavia puts a chemical concoction in her sister's lipstick which makes her lips swell. I didn't like these cruel acts. They weren't amusing or interesting to me. Just mean.

There is a fairly involved mystery, but sadly this didn't interest me either. I simply did not feel an involvement in the book. I didn't care for any of the characters. I realize I am in the minority. In fact, I have read only raves about this book. I've read it compared to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Strangely enough that is a book I really enjoyed. But not this one. It is quite unusual for me to stay with a book I don't enjoy. I just kept thinking I *must* like this book. But I didn't.


  1. You know now that you mention it she could've been a savant because she truly wasn't like the other kids. I still enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one!!

  2. so pleased to hear someone else didn't like it! Given all the favourable blog comments, I thought I was alone - I didn't finish which is unusual.


  3. Sorry you didn't enjoy it. I hate when that happens, I guess it was a recommendDud for you!

    My mom didn't enjoy the book either, so you aren't you the only one.

    I found myself in class* the other day wondering who had invoked the phrase "What would Mrs Lavoisier do?" and of course it was Flavia. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn't one I would recommend to everyone. I did however recommend it to the chemistry teacher next door to me! (*I was in physics class and I was looking at a poster of Women in Science.)

  4. I've been wondering about this book, but something put me off - nothing I could put my finger on, I just had a feeling it was not for me. Now I've read your thoughts on it I'm glad I haven't bought it. I trust your opinion, but I may sneak a look if I see it in the library.

  5. OK, Nan, I'm very interested to hear you say this. My mystery group is reading this book for April (if the books ever come in - the hold list is so long). I've only heard good things too, so we'll see what I think when I read it next month. You were expecting something like Enola Holmes weren't you or Lemony Snicket's kids?

  6. Oh goodness, I've heard so many good things about this book that when I saw it at the library this morning I grabbed it. Interesting to read your comments and am wondering now how I'll feel about it now. Sorry you didn't care for it though.

  7. I think I'm the only other person in the world who didn't enjoy this book, couldn't even finish it. So glad I'm not the only one!

  8. Sorry Nan. I did love it and look forward to book #2.

  9. What a shame; I simply loved it!

  10. It's even worse to be disappointed when your expectations are so high! There's something I can't quite put my finger on, but it's made me hesitate to pick up the book despite all the glowing reviews. I like your cover better than the dead bird cover though.

  11. I dipped my toes in this ...but as time for reading is scavenged from "things I must do" felt no need to carry on when it didn't compel me to read on (and it didn't)..so it can go back to the library where it's probably someone else's cup of tea...just not mine..picked up Green for Danger instead and couldn't put it down ..yippee

  12. I bought the book based on all the positive reviews. I haven't read it yet so I don't know what I'll find. What occasionally happens to me is that I will not like a book that everyone else thinks is wonderful. That's the beauty of reading - we can all have our own opinion. I'm going to have to pull this one from the shelf and see what my opinion is.

    Good review.

  13. First of all, thank you so much for writing. It wasn't fun for me to write a negative review, since I hardly ever do so. Thanks for being kind even if you loved the book, and thanks for letting me know if you didn't; that I wasn't alone in my feelings.

    Thanks, Staci. I was a little nervous to sound so unappreciative of the book, but that's how I felt.

    Sheila, I don't usually finish a book I don't like, but I just kept thinking I'd like it. :<)

    Raidergirl, what a clever word! I love it. I can imagine that chemistry folks would love to see a young girl who loves it so much!

    Books Please, don't trust me too much! So many others loved this book! Reading is just so very personal. :<)

    Kay, Before reading it, I did think it was a young adult book rather than an adult book which featured a young girl. But I could get over that just fine - if I liked the character. You know I love Enola. She seems real. I've never read Lemony S. Didn't appeal to me.

    Cath, you may love it to pieces! We never know when we open a book, do we?

    Tabitha, thanks! And good to hear from you.

    Diane, as are so many others! It has such a great title, just as this one does.

    Call me madam, I know you did, and I was so sure I would, too. :<)

    JoAnn, I will be interested to hear what you think when you do read it. Fascinating what you wrote.

    Val, such a great feeling to love a book that much!

    Thank you, Margot. I will be waiting to hear what your opinion is!

  14. Your review fascinates me, because I, too, am longing to read it and expect to like it. However, like you, I may very well not. We'll have to chat when I read it and compare notes.

    I can tell by the change in your header that spring is coming!

  15. Nan, that sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for the review!

  16. I could've sworn I left a comment here. Oh, well.

    I'm not the least bit surprised you didn't like Flavia. Somehow, I knew this book might not be your cuppa. Just a gut feeling. :)

    By the way, Happy Birthday to You!! I hope you have a wonderful day (2/25)!

    Love ya, Nan!!

  17. Thank you, Scriptor S! How on earth did you remember that?? :<)

    Dolce Bellezza, I will be interested in what you think. I've been surprised to get some notes from others who weren't wild about it. The day I took the header pic, the light and the air were amazingly springlike.

    Sherri, If you read it, I'd like to know what you thought.

    Les, that's pretty amazing that you thought that. And thank you for the b-day wishes!!

  18. Happy Birthday, Nan! Hope you are having a lovely day with loads of treats.

  19. First off, I like this cover better too. Hmmm. Well, I am going to read this and I hope it like it more than you did. But, in your report, the things you wrote about, I could see, that yes, this wasn't your sort of book somehow. I hope whatever you are reading now is bringing more pleasure.

  20. Nan -- I couldn't make it past the first couple of chapters . . . and I had SO wanted to like it!

  21. Carole, thank you so very much!

    Tara, I love it that you know my 'sort' of book! I adored the books I just finished, and the one I'm reading now.

    Bookish NYC, I'm really surprised there are others out there who didn't care for it. But Mr. B. need not worry. He has plenty of fans!

  22. Isn't it funny how this happens! it's why I don't often buy books for people. Everyone but me seems to love Lemony Snicket.

    I rather identified with Flavia, myself, having had a fascination with poisons as a child (though I never put it to any practical use!), and I enjoyed the contrast between the meanness of the sisters to each other and their real but suppressed loyalty.

  23. Geranium Cat, I have never attempted LS because the books just seemed mean-spirited and dark. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have no interest. I was pleased in this book when the sister seemed to care so much, and then it was a trick (the pit scene). Maybe in future books, the sisters will come to openly care for one another, but who knows.

  24. You know, reading your review, I found myself wondering if you have ever read one of my all time favorite books - an odd mystery to be sure about a very odd family but written by a sure hand - Shirley Jackson - We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

  25. Nan, it seems strange that a 70 year old Canadian man should write as if he were a 1950s English schoolgirl in the first place! Maybe that's why it lacks that special feeling for you? (He only visited England for the first time in 2007)
    Maybe because you've read so much authentic stuff a copy just won't cut it for you!


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