Saturday, March 1, 2014

Corny titles du jour

I told you I was going to read some fluff, and so I did.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was my choice.  I actually bought this book and the second one in this series when Borders was going out of business.  So, I've had them for a while.

If you're unfamiliar with this series, Alan Bradley is a 70-year old first time author who never visited Britain prior to publishing this book, which is set in a small English village in the 1950s.  Which kind of blows my mind.  I've never been to England to check, but since he's won all kinds of awards, I assume the setting is more or less true to reality.  

The main character is an 11-year old girl named Flavia de Luce.  She's independent, precociously intelligent, and in love with chemistry.  One of those kids whose intellect has far outstripped her social development.  She comes off with several totally hair raising commentaries, it's part of the charm and comedy of Flavia.

These are mysteries.  A dead bird and a stamp are found on a doorstep.  A man who argues with her father in the middle of the night turns up dead in the garden.  Flavia rides her bike. A lot.  I won't spoil the solution, but the mystery is fairly satisfying.  And I respect that Flavia, for a while at least, doesn't rule out her father as a suspect.

The overarching themes are of England in the 50s - still reeling from WWII, a generation of men lost or wounded, and much of the old aristocracy, including Flavia's family, running out of money.

There were a few things I didn't care for, but not many.  We get some very painful Asian stereotypes, but I suppose they're a facet of the time period, unfortunately.  And the de Luces are an extremely eccentric family, odd to the point of incredulity.  One of the more amusing annoyances is Flavia's epiphanies.  At least six times, she says she sees it all, sees the whole pattern.  It all makes sense.  And then she announces something completely anticlimactic.

I'll probably be reading the second in the series, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, soon.

   Final call:

This is really good stuff, for fluff.  There are quite a few plot points that seem fantastical, but Flavia's characterization is spot on.  Nailing down how preteens think is hard!  I laughed out loud a couple of times, too.            

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