Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Author: Alan Bradley; Read by Jayne Entwistle

Publisher: Random House Audio

Series: Flavia de Luce Mystery, Bk 1

ISBN: 9780739384305

Length: 10 hours; 8 discs

Obtained: Library audiobook copy


So first heard of this series last year, and I actually had the print version of this checked out at one point, but I never got around to it until I decided to try it as an audiobook.  Boy, am I ever glad I decided to try it as an audio.  I enjoyed the story, of course; I'll get more into that later.

But I can't fathom enjoying the story as much as I did with Jayne Entwistle narrating it.  She positively brought Flavia to life.  The spunky almost 11-year-old's attitude just bubbled out.  Her sheer glee when speaking or thinking about chemistry was right there, in your face.  I actually ::mental gasp:: found myself wondering if I ever gave chemistry a fair shot.

I dropped out of AP Chem my first day of class, and did everything in my power to avoid chemistry in college, even though it meant switching career goals (I wanted to be a veterinarian - an exotic vet, to be precise - from kindergarten through my senior year of high school when I dropped the Chem class.  I even applied to universities where I could intern at nearby zoos or animal parks.).  But Flavia sounded so enthused about it, I had to doubt myself.  And that is saying something, because chemistry (or avoidance of it) had such a huge impact on my choices.

Penny Black
Image obtained from
Anyway, I thought the narrator did an excellent job with the book, but the author deserves credit too.  The characters, in particular Flavia of course, had such personality.  Their situation was so interesting an different.  It's the 1950s in Britain.  Here's where I admit to being something along the line of ethnocentric (I don't think that fits exactly, but I can't think of a better term), because I've never thought about what the UK was like in the 50s.  It simply never occurred to me.

As far as the characters are concerned... Flavia's mother died in an accident when she was one, leaving her, her two older sisters, and her father to manage on their own.  There is a rivalry between the sisters that includes tying one up and locking her in a closet, tampering with one's lipstick, and various verbal pokes and stabs.  I have to admit, the sibling reactions baffled me a little.  But it contributed to the different aspect I mentioned before.  Their father is somewhere between strict and disinterested, so they mostly are able to run wild.  And then there is the staff.  Mrs. Mullet didn't do much for me one way or the other, but I found Dogger and Flavia's interactions/relationship interesting, and dare I say, hopeful.  When she needed a father figure a bit more tuned in, Dogger was there.  And when Dogger needed a reality check, Flavia was there.

Another point of interest is that Flavia is a child prodigy, particularly when it comes to chemistry and poisons, but her intelligence goes further than that.  At the very beginning of the book, when Flavia's been tied up in a closet, she mentions what idiots they are for failing to tie her thumbs.  *blink*  It would never occur to me, if I ever had reason to tie someone up securely (highly unlikely), to tie their thumbs.  My point is, her unusual intelligence means she is more intelligent than many adults.

I've already begun listening to the second book in the series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.

This book, while set in the UK, is written by Canadian author Alan Bradley, who resides in Ontario.  The narrator was born in England and currently live is the U.S., but does have Canadian citizenship.

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