Bradley starts us off during the beginning of a lazy and ordinary summer in 1950, when a series of inexplicable events strike Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. The de Luce's enjoyable mode of relaxed existence is interrupted when a dead jack snipe is found on the kitchen doorstep, with a rare postage stamp bizarrely impaled on its beak. Later that night, Flavia overhears her normally reserved and amicable father, arguing tempestuously with a stranger in is secluded study, and only mere hours later, finds a dying man in the cucumber patch. As she watches expectantly while he utters his last dying word, 'vale', she becomes both appalled and delighted. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections.
Flavia is a wonderful creation, and makes for a highly engaging and memorable heroine, and I so loved being in her company this week. Her brilliance and mature inquisitive nature come together to make her a perfectly dexterous sleuth, while her ongoing rivalry with her older sisters, and sufficient childish quirks, reminds us that she is still a somewhat normal eleven year old girl. For me, she is a mix of Harriet the Spy's curious and mischievous personality, as well as Harry Potter's Hermione Granger's perspicacious and resourceful tendencies. Flavia is quick-witted, speaking often with smilies and analogies, making her a relatable character for readers of any age.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie provides us with a richly imagined, and luscious new world. The descriptions of Bucksaw, the de Luce family, and their many friends and acquaintances are laid out effortlessly, and the ongoing clues and realizations keep you engaged and thinking from beginning to end. Bradley artfully includes historical trivia about science, music, and literature, and combined with a piercing depiction of class and society, are mixed perfectly together to provide a succulent and consuming novel.