Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley Essay

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley Essay

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In his wickedly clever debut mystery, Alan Bradley introduces the one and only Flavia de Luce: a refreshingly precocious, sharp, and impertinent 11-year old heroine who goes through a bizarre maze of mystery and deception. Bradley designs Bishop’s Lacey, a 1950s village, Buckshaw, the de Luce’s crumbling Gothic mansion, and reproduces the hedges, gently rolling hills, and battered lanes of the countryside with explicit detail. Suspense mounts up as Flavia digs up long-buried secrets after the corpse of an ominous stranger emerges in the cucumber patch of her country estate. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie features a plethora of unforeseen twists and turns; it is surely a rich literary delight.

The band of characters is drawn from every level of the class system. Unique interactions among characters from different social standings are conveyed, from the distressed, kindly gardener, to the impertinent daughter of the village innkeeper, to the prosperous de Luce family, and to the royalty. What appealed to me was that Flavia could trace her family’s history back many generations, and for one to be able to make these personal connections is extremely rare. Of course, this awareness of their past is correlated to the de Luce’s chain of affluence.

Five years following the Second World War, the setting of 1950s England is skillfully illustrated, as the nation is no longer much of a powerhouse. The way of life that has fulfilled the de Luce family is waning, as economic realism and modern life approach the under-funded country pile. Bradley captures the distinct era in history, a mixture of post-war adversity and the Empire coming to its end. Flavia is bemused; uninformed of the physiological effects the war had placed...


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...elf, to her own interests and be able to pursue them. Children can become focused intensely on something, but it does not last because they are diffused by their parents and the social order. What would have happened to Mozart if his father had set the piano off limits, and said “Do not lay a hand on that piano, you are not old enough”? A fine line between guiding and leaving is critical, and it appears that giving children independence results in incredible outcomes.

All in all, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie depicts a world that is as uncertain of itself as Flavia is of herself. They are reflections of each other, trying to determine where they are, who they are, and what they will do next. A delightful mystery and a piercing illustration of class and society, the novel is a masterfully told story of deceptions—a literature delight I highly recommend.

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