Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting main character and setting
Cons: Pacing of story, especially in the beginning; Flavia acts her age at times
The Bottom Line:
In story that fits her well
And a good debut
Sweet Mystery Debut for Flavia de Luce
I have been hearing raves about the Flavia de Luce series ever since the first book came out, yet I never had managed to read a book in the series. So many books, so little time, right? But all the talk from fans as the latest book hit the shelves made me look up the series on audio. Sure enough, my library had it, so I checked out The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. While I didn’t love it as much as I thought I might, I certainly did enjoy it.
Life for 11-year-old Flavia de Luce is fairly easy in 1950 England. True, she doesn’t get along with her two older sisters, but she gives as good as she gets from them, usually thanks to her passion for chemistry.
Then one June day, their housekeeper finds a dead jacksnipe on their doorstep complete with an old stamp on his beak. That first upsets her father, who goes into his study to be alone. However, Flavia wakes up in the middle of the night and heads to the garden to find a stranger dying in the cucumber patch. As these two events connected? What might they mean?
I’m wondering if part of my reaction to the book was the universal praise I usually hear for the series. Were my expectations too high? Possibly. Again, it’s not that I didn’t like it, but I didn’t think it was quite as charming as others have said.
Let’s start with Flavia. She’s a typical 11-year-old, which meant at times I loved her and at times I was very irritated with her. She is certainly smart, but she’s also a little arrogant. While I really didn’t like her sisters much at all, the way she treated them at times was pretty mean, too. In the end, I did enjoy her. Most of the characters are entertaining as well, and felt real to me.
The plot is actually fairly solid. The pacing could have been better, and it is Flavia’s first person asides that often slowed it down. However, her reasons for getting involved in a murder and the way she gathers and pieces together the clues is very realistic. The twists and turns along the way were good, and the climax was wonderful.
To expand on the first person narration, it at times provides some charm and at others tends to drag on. This is especially true early on as Flavia tells us about her passion for chemistry. Hopefully, that will be smoothed out in future books since we already know about it now.
The narration by Jayne Entwistle for the audio version was truly wonderful. Her voice perfectly captures that of an 11-year-old girl and the highs and lows of the story. At times, her enthusiasm seemed a bit over the top, but for the most part her reactions usually fit the mood of the story. There was certainly no over acting that got in the way of the story on her part.