Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reader's Diary #789- Alan Bradley: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

While far from my least favourite novel of 2011, it's definitely one of my year's biggest disappointments. For the past few years all I've heard of is Alan Bradley: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie,
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, Red Herring Without Mustard-- 3 of the most popular Canadian titles in recent years. When I saw that there was a Christmas-themed Flavia de Luce mystery, I jumped at the chance to finally see what all the fuss was about (mine was a free review copy).

Unfortunately I still don't know. Feeling quite underwhelmed by the whole thing, I suspected that maybe this was Bradley's first misstep in the series. Perhaps it was just a poor time for me to be jumping in. Alas, reading all the positive reviews of this book-- equal to the previous three-- I'm left to conclude that the problem is with me.

I found the whole thing rather silly. A movie production crew shows up film at Flavia's family estate just before Christmas. They wouldn't wait until after? Then, conveniently, they all get snowed in on the night a murder takes place-- leaving a house full of suspects. Flavia, whom everyone seems so gung-ho about, came across as a two-dimensional caricature: a precocious eleven year old girl who compares everything to chemical reactions and who confides in Dogger, a family assistant, who seems a little too reminiscent of Punjab from Annie. Without these connections I wasn't drawn into the mystery at all and could hardly have cared less who committed the crime.

Last week I supposed, after reading an equally underwhelming Sherlock Holmes story, that mysteries are perhaps not for me. I can see how people would consider them comfortable diversions, but I'm still not sold on the genre.


Chrisbookarama said...

With mysteries, you just have to go with it. I mean, how many bodies can show up in Miss Marple's village? They'd have the highest homicide rate in all the UK.

Meytal Radzinski said...

The thing with the Flavia books is that they're all a bit silly. Flavia's character is allegedly what makes the books, but it's more the quaintness of tone than her fairly unrealistic character. It's all a bit twee and over-the-top. If in the right frame of mind, it can be enjoyable but I personally find it a bit tiring after a while...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I do find mysteries a good diversion, but I am very particular about what mystery authors I read. This book would likely not do the trick for me.

Loni said...

I read The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I couldn't stand Flavia. It was all just too much for me. I've thought about giving another of Bradley's books a try because people seem to like them so much, but I just can't bring myself to spend money on it.... I won Sweetness.

Perogyo said...

Happy New Year John!

I was going over my 2011 reading list and it's so much better and more diverse than my 2010 list. I am ever so greatful I found your blog and the Canadian Reading Challenge, my eyes were opened up to Canlit in ways they never were before. Thanks!

John Mutford said...

Chris and Biblibio: I know, but it's hard sometimes to just "go with it" or to force oneself into the "right frame of mine." I'm reminded of trying to waterski in Jamaica and the instruction getting increasingly more angry with me, yelling at me to "relax." If it doesn't just happen, it's very difficult to get oneself there!

Barbara: Any favourites?

Loni: Maybe we can start a support group.

Medea: What a nice thing to say! Thank-you! (And I'm glad to have found your blog too.)

Loni said...

John, from what I've read from other bloggers, it might just be you and me.

I wouldn't completely discount mysteries as a genre though. After posting my comment, I remembered that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a mystery and I thought it was great. That is, however, the only positive example I have right now.