Friday, 2 May 2014

Sister Reads | Review: The Sweetness at the bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #1)


Book: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Author: Alan Bradley

Pages: 374

I Read it on: My Kindle

I Read it in: 6-7 hours across 3 days (it was not very engaging!)

Plot Summary: This book is the first in the Flavia de Luce series, which is about a 11 year old girl who lives with her reclusive dad and two sisters in an English village in the early 1950s. Flavia is the sleuth in these stories.

(From Goodreads) Flavia de Luce 11 is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. In the summer of 1950, inexplicable events strike Buckshaw, her decaying mansion home. A dead bird is on the doorstep, a postage stamp on its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man dying in the cucumber patch. His last words must save her father imprisoned for his murder.

So, here is what you need to know- Flavia's mother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances whilst trying to hike up Mount Everest when Flavia was just a kid. So, she lives in this sprawling mansion with her sisters and her dad and spends most of her time brewing poisons and doing other chemistry things in a high-tech chem lab in their home, which was built for an ancestor at the turn of the century. (Please note heavy sarcasm here!) 

Review and Thoughts: We liked the premise of this book- a 11 year old Chemistry prodigy/self-taught fanatic who goes about solving crimes in the early 1950s. Sounds cute, right? Yup, we thought so too. However, the book turned out to be very, very disappointing! Let me count the reasons why...

1. Flavia: Now, our leading lady, so to speak, is a 11 year old Chemistry prodigy who decides to take matter into her own hands when her father is accused of a stranger's murder. So, not only does she dash about rural England on her trusty bike at all hours of the day and night to interrogate witnesses and other people involved she also collects evidence and then proceeds to analyse the chemical compositions of them. Then, because she is such a go-getter, she also manages to get her uber-quiet and uber-reclusive dad to open up to her about his mysterious past, post which, she goes about tracking people down from her dad's past and speaking to them. 
Anything about this sounds even remotely plausible?! I don't think so. Look, I am willing to, obviously, suspend disbelief (I have to, especially, when magical realism is one of my favourite sub-genres of literature!) but this whole character and context setting seemed ludicrous to me! 
This is a 11 year old in the early 1950s, who does not go to a proper school and is yet a self-taught genius chemist who likens herself to Sherlock Holmes. Puh-lease, Mr. Bradley, give me a break! And haul yourself back to reality! 
I just could not connect with Flavia and her precociousness! It seemed too manufactured and completely un-genuine! 

2. The Crime: Given the only suspects could have been members and trusted servants of the de Luce family, it was obvious that the only "stranger" in the proceedings had to be the murder and he/she was! So, so much for writing a mystery story. Not much of a mystery there at all! On top of that, one had to ENDURE 300 plus pages of blithering, waffling, stupidity to get there. Thanks, but no thanks! 

3. The Tone: Now, I have read books where I may have not enjoyed the actual mystery but have loved the characters and tone. This book was annoying because Flavia's voice is just way too smug and irritating. I did not enjoy the smug-look-at-me-I-am-a-little-genius tone of this book at all! 

I do not recommend this book at all. 

Would You Like It?: I don't think so! There are better mystery writers out there. Get one of the Scandinavian authors' books if you are craving some mystery action- Jo Nesbo is a good author to get into, in my opinion! 

Rating: 1/5  

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