Review of “Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is a very precocious eleven year old living in England in 1950 who does not yet seem to have any hormones but who does have an inordinately strong penchant for chemistry. She lives alone in a big house with her father; the memory of her dead mother (who died while Flavia was still a baby); two spiteful and self-absorbed sisters – Ophelia and Daphne; and a couple of servants. When Flavia finds a dead body in the cucumber patch, she is most gratified: now she has a mystery to solve, which takes on increasing importance after her own father is arrested for the crime.

Discussion and Evaluation: The mystery in this book was not all that compelling to me. But, I would also aver that the “mystery” is not really the focus of this story.

The character of Flavia and the bizarre nature of her rarified existence are the real subjects of this book. Her family is idiosyncractic in an interesting and amusing way, and Flavia herself is different than just about any other eleven-year-old you might encounter. I love when Flavia injects chemistry anecdotes into the story, or when she engages in clever wordplay with exasperated adults. I would have to say, however, that the book was insufficiently gripping for me. I suppose I would classify it as enjoyable but not awe-inspiring. “Sweet,” perhaps, is a good adjective for this book.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Delacorte Press, 2009

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21 Responses to Review of “Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” by Alan Bradley

  1. I’ve recently read this book too. I think I enjoyed this a little bit more than you – it is a nice, light enjoyable read. It isn’t outstanding, but it is an entertaining cozy mystery. I’ll probably read the sequel at some point, but I’m in no rush!

  2. Sandy says:

    Jenners gave me her copy of this book, which I intend to read before I die (ha). I’ll go into it knowing it is simple and cozy, and be prepared to fall in love with this character. Plus, don’t you just love the covers of the first two books in the series? I’m besotted.

  3. Steph says:

    Given my love of mysteries, it’s perhaps surprising that I’ve never read this one, especially given all the blog love it’s gotten! I do like it when these kind of books have a strong mystery component, but that said, it doesn’t bother me if that part is less than awesome if the character relationships and depictions are strong.

  4. Ti says:

    Again, another overly hyped book that I am holding off on until I’ve read more reviews. I have seen this book everywhere and so many bloggers love it.

    You said it was “sweet”, I can sort of live without sweet.

  5. Jenny says:

    I enjoyed this a lot for the humor, but I probably won’t need to reread it. The series strikes me as more of a library-book-check-out series, than a keep-forever series. 😛

  6. Julie P. says:

    Sweet? Hmmm. I have been wanting to read this one for awhile and actually picked it up the other day again. I think I’ll wait until I’m in the mood for a light read!

  7. Margot says:

    I bought this book because I read that the author was older than me. I thought he deserved my attention. But then I kept seeing so many reviews that it sort of turned me off. I guess there’s enough time now that I really should read it. I thought of sharing it with my 11-year-old granddaughter. Her opinion should be interesting.

  8. caite says:

    I read and reviewed this awhile back.
    I had to go back and reread the review to be sure what I though of it. Not the best sign…lol
    I think I may have liked it a tiny bit more than you…but ultimately, while entertaining it was not great.

  9. bermudaonion says:

    I’ve got this on my phone to listen to and I’m expecting great things because I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. After your great review, I’ve lowered my expectations, so maybe I won’t be too disappointed.

  10. Nymeth says:

    After reading a 5/5 review of this one and lamenting my book buying ban for the nth time, it’s good to get here and be reminded that I don’t actually need to read it RIGHT NOW 😛

  11. Staci says:

    I like Flavia and I did enjoy the way you described her! Book 2 was a better story for me.

  12. Aarti says:

    Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for a sweet book 🙂 I still haven’t read the prequel to this book, but I feel like I’d like Flavia.

  13. diane says:

    I liked this story (right time, right place) and I also enjoyed book 2 in the series. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  14. Bookjourney says:

    Jury is still out for me on this one. I would like to read it but am not fully committed. Thanks for a good review. 🙂

  15. Lisa says:

    I’m told the second book in the series is better. Did you like this one enough to read the next one?

    • Lisa,

      If it appeared on my doorstep I would probably read it. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to acquire it (an attitude which also reflects the depth of my TBR pile, now full of good things to read!)

  16. Care says:

    I still aver that the green color of the cover is just wonderful.

  17. Jenners says:

    I think the mystery is besides the point … the point is the wonderfulness of Flavia! : )

  18. Belle says:

    I enjoyed this book a lot, but it was really Flavia’s character and her relationships with the people in her life that really drew me in. I seem to remember finding the ending to be quite gripping, though – definitely a quicker pace than the rest of the novel!

    I have the second on in audio and I’m hopeful that Flavia will be as charming as I found her in the first book.

  19. Alyce says:

    I’ve been on the fence about this book. I don’t normally like mysteries, but then I’ve heard it’s not so much about the mystery. On the other hand the precocious young protagonist seems a bit unrealistic (and uninteresting) to me from the descriptions I’ve read. I think if I’m going to read it I need to wait until I’m in the mood for a night light read.

  20. stacybuckeye says:

    I’ve read such good things about Flavia and have it on my wish list, but it’s probably because I fear I’ll have the same respoinse as you that I haven’t picked it up yet!

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