Last night, I finally finished The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. It took be a little longer to finish this one than the others I’ve reviewed so far on this blog, mostly because I’ve been doing research and other things, like helping my great-aunt clean her gutters while the weather is nice! I love reading, but it’s hard to turn down the chance at some physical activity outdoors when the weather is so nice.

Anyway, despite the time it took, I really enjoyed this book. I’ll admit that sometimes when a book that is marketed towards adults has a teenage or pre-teen main character, I find it annoying and out of place, but somehow the 11-year-old protagonist in this one worked. I think mostly what made it work for me was the snappy writing and the fact that the main character is something of a genius. A book about more normal circumstances featuring a normal 11-year-old would have most likely bored me to tears, let’s be honest here. But Flavia de Luce, though at times wise beyond her years, had enough natural naivete that comes with that age to be just believable enough– for example, she thought it would be a great idea to escape her assailant using her older sister’s advice to “kick him in the Casanovas,” but then couldn’t go through with said plan because she didn’t understand where a man’s “Casanovas” were located. Love it! Some of the chemistry talk I found a little bit hard to swallow since I find it highly unlikely that an 11-year-old could teach herself how to do such complicated chemical equations. Some of it got a little too thick for me, reminding me of the torture that was Chemistry 121 during my freshman year of undergraduate studies, but it never dragged on for too long and there was plenty of action to counter the scientific babbling. And, even though it is a little hard for me to believe that such a person could exist, the way chemical reactions and notable chemists were described had an enthusiasm each and every time that really would belong to an 11-year-old; it was far too pure and energetic to come out of the mouth of an adult character.

I enjoyed the cast of characters and especially the interplay between Flavia and her two older sisters, which felt realistic despite the extraordinary circumstances of the plot. The characters also have the best, delightfully British names: Dogger, Mrs. Mullet, Miss Mountjoy, Ophelia, Mr. Twining (what is more British that “Twining”? I ask you.). But my favorite name by far was Horace Bonepenny. Doesn’t it just sound like the perfect name for a villain? Even the house itself had a very proper-sounding British name, Buckshaw. On a side note, why is it that Americans have something ingrained in their minds that makes them love British English? Deep down do we wish we were still under the rule of the crown? Unsolved mystery, but true enough in my experience.

I originally picked up this book when I was in the mystery section of the local library, picking up the next The Cat Who… book for my mom. I had seen this book before, and the title and cover intrigued me, so I thought I would give a mystery book a shot. Generally I bypass mystery novels in favor of historical fiction, classic literature or international fiction, but I think I need a broader repertoire, and that’s what I set out to do when I checked this out. The mystery aspect of the book was all right, but still not my favorite. I like to be taken along for a ride than try to outwit the characters and figure things out before they do– although I was able to do that a couple of times in this book, I didn’t solve the big question, nor did I even really try. Does that make me a lazy reader? Or do I just have a different reading style? I think that different readers get involved in books in different ways, and my style is more of escapism I think. For anyone out there reading this, I’d love to hear what your reading style is.

Bottom line: a fun, snappy read. Definitely worth your time.

P.S. Sorry no image this time, the insert image option doesn’t seem to want to work properly today. Next time!