Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By Alan Bradley

Two Things I Liked About Sweetness:
1. Flavia’s extensive morbid knowledge of poisons.
2. Flavia’s bike named Gladys.

You know those books you pick up every time you’re in a bookstore, read the back blurb, ponder, and then ultimately put back down? Sometimes, when you finally give in and buy it, you kick yourself for not having done so earlier because it so exceeds your expectations. Other times, it falls as flat as you feared it might. This book falls into the latter category for me.

It seemed promising enough: Flavia de Luce is an eleven-year-old mad chemist with a specialty in poisons. She lives in an old English manor house in the 1950’s with her father and her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and has a penchant for the dramatic. Much to her delight (“I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”), she finds a man sprawled in the garden and witnesses his last breath as the sun rises the morning after a dead bird showed up on their doorstep, a stamp mysteriously pierced on its beak. Flavia determines the two events must be connected, and she’s not going to relent until she finds out how.

It seemed promising enough, but… I don’t know. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it (except for an annoying overuse of nicknaming; case in point: Ophelia became ‘Feely’). It just didn’t excite me. It lacked that essential and difficult to define spark necessary to really kindle my interest. Flavia should have been spunky and fresh and engaging. She didn't quite succeed. The mystery should have been quirky and suspenseful and engrossing. It wasn't. The whole thing was better as an idea, as the possibility contained in the promise of a black cover blurb.

See? I can’t even get worked up enough to carry on about it in an impassioned and detailed bad review. I’m just… eh, apathetic about it.

Books Read This Year: 17
Top 100 Progress: 39/100


  1. Your review of this book was spot on. I love a good mystery, but like a new angle. Thought this might be one. And it wasn't. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't good. Love the reviews. I'm six months into my Kindle ownership, and still loving it. Always looking for a good read.

  2. Yeah, I didn't even feel strongly enough about the book enough to pursue the sequels... which is saying something. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the reviews! I'm not a kindle owner myself (I love the package and experience of the traditional book in my hands too much), but my mom loves hers.