The Title Caught My Eye Series: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

December 9 2011
In a time long ago and far away, I came up with a "scathingly brilliant idea" (thanks Hayley Mills).
While perusing upcoming books a title caught my eye.  It was A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan Bradley.  Now, the problem with this particular book was that it wasn't in my good ol' historical romance comfort zone.  But, I thought, wouldn't it be a simply awesome idea to once a month select a book based on nothing more than the title - that catches my eye?  And, furthermore have that one title be a different genre!  What a super-duper idea!

Now, as luck would have it, the title that caught my eye happened to be the third in a series.  Well, an individual cannot start a book in the middle of a series, at least not this individual.  So, I glanced at the other Alan Bradley and found I loved them all.  They were actually quite melodious to my ears.  Just listen:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  What a lovely sound. 

My idea took root.  Now, the problem with a "scathingly brilliant idea" is sometimes they backfire.  You see, some book titles are not chosen by the author, so, what appears lovely on the front cover might be hiding a bow wow within.  Sometimes they just don't match!  But, what the hey, who am I to stop something once it starts rolling down that old hill?

So, my first book in my "The Title Caught My Eye" begins with Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, published in 2009.  And, by the way, this book won the Debut Dagger award from the Crime Writers Association.  So, not only am I stepping out of my zone, I'm reading a book that won an award and you know what that means?  I'm not fond of things that win awards.  The winning of a "best of" award imposes a mindset upon us.  You'd better like it or else!  What if I don't like the book?  Does that mean I'm a doofus?  I'm not highfalutin enough to get it?  I'm probably the only person around who thinks John Steinbeck is depressing.  So anyway, awards make me leery. 

Onward we go.  Welcome to the world of Flavia deLuce.  Hey, guess what!  It's in first person!  Oh, joy!  Talk about comfort zone problems.  And, did I happen to mention that Flavia is eleven years old?  Oh rapture, an eleven year old in first person.  Sigh.

Snuggle down time.  Or was it struggle down time?  I was really torn when I read this book.  Some parts of this book were quite brilliant, almost scathingly so.  I loved all the quirky people and all the dynamics within the deLuce family.  It was also that quirkiness which caused me problems.  At times the voice of Flavia seemed similar to a male voice.  And, not just any male voice but one who knows lots and lots of trivia.  There are just some things we see in Flavia's mind that are w-a-y beyond her experience or comprehension.  Her references to Laurence Olivier would have been more appropriate if the story had taken place in the 40's and if she had been sixteen.  I just didn't understand how an isolated Flavia could have been so sophisticated in her knowledge.  She's in this little village.  I didn't get any sense of how she was educated and she had a father hiding behind behind a paper or anyplace but with his children.  The communication between he and his children just wasn't there.  Unless you are some paranormal oddity, you do not know something you have never experienced.  So, she was a stretch of the imagination.

I also had a problem with the sibling rivalry or whatever it was.   Usually siblings, especially sisters, are pretty close.  Even when they are hating each other, and unless they are psychotic women like Belle Gunness or Mary Ann Cotton, you just don't put poison in your sister's lipstick.

I felt a disconnect with the book until the moment Flavia's father spoke of his past.  That is when the writing became magic.  Everything matched the beauty of the title, I just wish it had happened sooner.

In the end, I know I'm in a minority when I say I wasn't as enthused about this story as others.  I had a hard time accepting Flavia's voice as her own and I wish I had seen more of the quirky townspeople.  The murder mystery almost blended into the scenery that was Flavia's cluttered mind.  However, I also felt this was a successful experiment, inasmuch as I would have missed some beautiful words within the pages of this book by not reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Time/Place: 1950's Great Britain
Blood/ Guts: Mild

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