Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Yet another new type of blog post! **le gasp!**

Yes, I am introducing another feature to Dragon’s Lair, called Book Reviews. From what I understand it, they are little snip-bits of insightful reader responses to various books and/or articles. . . or so my educational instructors would have me believe. . . this may change due to various climate related variables (i.e. if I happen to accidentally read something of the same quality as Twilight AND paid for it, expect to have a rant. I’m just being honest, and honesty is the best policy).

Anyway, without further ado, here is the review!

Alan Bradley’s award-winning debut novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is a story about eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poisons and practicing ways of tormenting her two older sisters (the two roads often cross). The story takes place in 1950, when Flavia discovers a dead man and bird whose unfortunate ends are both equally connected to a single stamp. “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,” so states Flavia after the dead man breathes his final breath by her feet.
If that is not enough to hook any reader to this book, I don’t know what is!
Flavia is a witty, intelligent, funny, and charming character that is reminiscent of other famously precocious eleven-year-olds. Those that come most readily to mind are Matilda, Harriet the Spy, Ann from Green Gables, and little orphan Annie. Yet, she has a flavor unlike any other character. Her emotional development and intellectual curiosity combine to create scenes that are both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. This is particularly true in scenes related to her father and mother: “I gave Father a silent hug to which, although he remained rigid as an oak, he did not seem to object.” Moreover, although in her dealings with death, distance, and danger she behaves with a maturity that surpasses her age group, we are constantly reminded that she is indeed a child. The things she faces are thus real in their potential impact on her. This creates a tension within the narrative that is not necessarily present in other books with child protagonists; a tension that has engaged adults and children ever since World War II. This makes Bradley’s debut novel an instant classic.

-Rose

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