Alan Bradley. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009)
This novel has an eleven-year-old girl obsessed with chemistry for a protagonist. Had I known this, I may not have grabbed it off the shelves of the Oxford Central Library. Yet, come to think of it, many extraordinary and excellent novels are written from the perspective of children. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind, and the recent Pulitzer Prize winner Gilead by Marilynn Robinson.
When she discovers a dying man in the cucumber patch of her country house, young Flavia enlists herself to solve the mystery of his death–and prove her father was not responsible for it. Flavia’s adventure brings her into danger and into the past events of her father’s life. This book is written with such wry humor and a charming sense of place (English country manor circa 1950s) that it’s hard to believe it was imagined by a Canadian. There are layers to this story that would make it a wonderful book club read. I’m headed back to the library for the sequel: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag