Friday, December 2, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two things come to mind when thinking about this book that I love in almost all of my favorite books.  Characterization and agelessness.

Characterization is a big word, so let me use some smaller words to explain what it means to me.  It means that the character is real to me.  They have a past, present and future.  Personality traits color their dialogue and perception of the world.  Acting for their own reasons, they shape the plot in an unconscious way, and yet at no time does the reader find them acting in a way inconsistent with who they are.  It is for this reason that I love the Junie B. Jones books, and with this bias is no possible way that I can't love riding on Gladys's handlebars with Flavia de Luce as she solves mysteries.

Flavia, a precocious 10-year old, is the star of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and its progeny.  Her actions are consistent, her voice is contagious and her humanity is key to the plot.  I can't say enough good things about Alan Bradley's ability to introduce us to such a unique character.

So the other stand-out quality in this book is its agelessness.  By that I mean that it has a potential audience of anyone who can read a 300 page book.  There isn't a demographic that I can think of that wouldn't find something enjoyable about this plot or cast.  As an adult who favors juvenile literature, I really appreciate a story that can apply to all ages.  It is an art that is lost in many of today's action-oriented thrillers, philosophical book club favorites, and overly graphic love stories.

I must give some small comment about the fantastic nature of Flavia's chemical knowledge.  I don't see this as a character flaw, as much as an oddity of the plot or book as a whole.  Being a fantasy reader, I am ok with these kinds of exceptions to reality, and the passion that Flavia has for the subject carries the day for me.

Solid 5 stars.  Go read it now.