Sunday, March 7, 2010
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
I hope you will allow me a bit of time to gush!
I have fallen in love with an 11-year-old chemist-detective, Flavia de Luce, who has a penchant for poisons. Flavia is the most engaging, precocious, lovable literary heroines to come along in a long time.
Flavia has to make her own excitement in life since her older sisters are not interested in the same things until she discovers a dead man in the cucumber patch. Things get interesting for Flavia as she hurries to solve the murder and free her father of suspicion. The book is as imaginative as Flavia is fearless.
I listened to the audio-book read by Jayne Entwistle. If you've read my blog before you know I am an avid audio-book listener and this reading ranks near the very top of my all-time favorites. Entwistle does the voice of Flavia perfectly. She sounds like a kid, albeit a precocious one, but definitely a kid. I am often shocked that publishers don't consider that most adult voices do not sound like kids voices so their narration just sounds wrong, but that is not the case here. In fact, I am completely charmed by Entwistle's interpretation of Flavia.
Alan Bradley, the author, was the 2007 CWA Crime Debut Dagger competition winner. Bradley a 70+ year old writer from British Columbia submitted the 3,000 words he had completed about Flavia to the "Daggers" because his wife had heard a Debut Dagger runner-up on the radio and thought he should try for it. “And that is how I came to win. It’s all a bit of a blur since, I can’t remember exactly how many countries have bought the book based on that first chapter, but it is a lot,” Alan says. He was offered a three book deal based on one chapter of Sweetness but I understand that it is likely that there will be a least five Flavia de Luce novels in the series. Amazing!
I've included a link to an excerpt of an essay posted on Amazon.com by the author, Alan Bradley, on how Flavia entered his life and positively demanded that she have her own book. I think reading this essay actually sealed the deal between me and Flavia. It was full, unapologetic love after I read it. In a nutshell Bradley talks about Flavia as though she were a real person that he has to negotiate with.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book (out of many):
" I still shivered with joy whenever I thought of the autumn day that Chemistry had fallen into my life." p. 8
"...it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No...eight days a week." p. 58
"Directly above me, the sun was a great white zero, blazing down upon my empty head." p. 286
"Wrapped up in the music, I threw myself into an over-stuffed chair and let my legs dangle over the arm, the position in which Nature intended music to be listened to..." p. 263
Re-reading the quotes makes me smile again. I have a feeling that this book will make a lot of people smile. As you can tell my recommendation comes with no reservations.
Adult fiction appropriate for teens. 5 out of 5 stars.