The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Huh. I'm surprised I haven't already reviewed SatBotP because I know I read it a few years ago and have read all its sequels since! However: Julie got it for me in a lovely trade paperback at her book sale and included it in my birthday box o' books, and I reread it right after Little Bee. Both times I was struck by the strength of Bradley's characterization--he really creates Flavia de Luce as a vibrant, obnoxious, definite person--and by amazement that the book really worked. Its plot is far-fetched and convoluted, Flavia's flights into chemical knowledge can be tedious, and the lack of consistent development of the other characters (F. will remark that this conversation marked a change in her relationship to X character--but then the relationship never changes) becomes disappointing--but the book is a pleasure. Flavia's relationship to her bicycle, Gladys, is wonderfully described, and Bradley creates a vivid picture of the whole community of Bishop's Lacey, regardless of the fact that there are a few too many zany characters.
I think I read this book the first time over a school vacation--either Thanksgiving or Christmas--because I remember that sense of relief and leisure, and thinking that SatBotP fit that situation perfectly. It's a pleasure.
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Coiling out of that fictional small community is Thursday night, when Nate and I went to see "Wallace and Gromit and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" as part of Ellsworth's Outdoor Movie Series--the first one, in fact. N was super tired after his busy 4th, and I was super-ready to get out of the house after my boring 4th, so at first things didn't look hopeful, but he perked up after dinner and we decided to go. The Grand, the theater that hosts the movies, is adamant about not specifying a specific time for the movies: "after sunset," is all they'll say, so we headed over around 8:15, with sunset at 8:25. We met my friend Mark and his granddaughter Mercedes, settled in with our lawn chairs, and . . . the bugs descended. It's been a wet spring/summer so far, and the mosquitoes are bigger and more ubiquitous (can one be "more" ubiquitous? Oh well) than I can remember. We were armed with bug spray, which generally works well for 20 minutes, but pretty soon we resorted to wrapping our legs in blankets and tucking our upper selves into our sweatshirt hoods and sleeves. Still the monsters swarmed in front of us--but since they couldn't bite us very well, I think the balance ended up tipping in our favor, as every few minutes we'd kill a few just for spite.
Despite the bug swarms, which drove a good number of people who'd come without combat gear away, the evening was a pleasure. The movie is a hoot, with jokes for all ages, and being able to enjoy it while also watching the sky darken and the stars appear was a terrific experience. With the playground right there at "Knowlton Park," the site of the former K-3 school, the little kids could take off and swing and watch the movie the whole time. Small town life at its finest!
When the movie ended--late, of course (around 10 pm!)--we packed up our chairs and walked home under the stars, but our big LLBean bag is still packed and ready for next Thursday. Outdoor movies: another reason we love living in Ellsworth!