Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle
I had heard adorable things about this book when it first came out, but not being much of a mystery reader, I skipped it, until a friend offered me the audio. I am always looking for shorter, yet unabridged, audio books, and although I prefer nonfiction, I figured I'd give it a shot. And it was adorable!
Flavia de Luce is 11-year-old, it is 1950 and she lives at Buckshaw mansion in England near the town of Bishop's Lacey with her two annoying big sisters, distant father, quirky cook, and beloved jack-of-all-trades, Dogger. She is going about her business of experimenting with chemistry, much to her sisters' regret, when a dead body shows up in the cucumber patch and life suddenly gets a lot more interesting. When her father is arrested, Flavia knows she has to clear his name.
This book was a lot more fun and quirkier than your typical amateur-sleuth cozy, heightened by the age of the protagonist combined with her eccentric personality. She's prickly, a little annoying, stubborn, convinced of how much smarter she is than everyone else, and prone to getting into trouble. But she's also so endearing, as she wonders about her dead mother, wishes for more attention from her father and instead getting it from Dogger, and determinedly goes about proving his innocence him asking her not to. I particularly liked the relationship with her sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, who are both caricatures in the way we often buttonhole family in our youths and cast them in particular roles, and yet at times they do break out of those two-dimensions and show they care for Flavia, but at the same time are utterly exasperated by her. The mystery kept me guessing but everything fell into place appropriately.
I unfortunately dragged out listening to this over several weeks, which never is a good thing for an audio book, but it was easy to follow and to remember just what was going on last. The narrator was perfect, as her voice was very youthful and full of happy energy, although at times she was a tad bubbly. And I liked the other voices she did for the various other characters very much. I was at first skeptical of how she'd pull off very serious men like the police inspectors, but she totally did. Aside from a couple of deaths (inevitable in a mystery), there is no swearing, nothing inappropriate at all, and it would be a perfect book to listen to with the family, if the kids are old enough for dead people, and if they're up for a quiet British story with no real action. It certainly does have crossover appeal to teens.
This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Stacked and at Abby the Librarian. They alternate hosting the monthly post.
I got this audiobook from a friend.