A few weeks ago I read David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green where the story is told as seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old boy. Paired with this I have now read The Sweetness at the Bottom of The Pie by Alan Bradley, this time narrated by an eleven year old girl.
We’re taken back to 1950 where eleven year old Flavia de Luce lives in a grand old house in the English countryside
I don’t remember the book mentioning where Flavia was receiving her education but she had this wonderful, ancient, private laboratory at the top of the house, complete with bunsen burners, test tubes, beakers, flasks and glass retorts, as well as the contents of a vast array of stoppered bottles and a library of old-fashioned chemistry books. It had been set up by an earlier member of the family, and, left so much to her own devices Flavia became an intelligent self-taught chemist.
When a body is found in the cucumber patch Flavia’s analytical mind springs into action and she is off on the chase to try and find out what has really happened. How Did He Die and Who Did It ‘
So where did the author get his detailed knowledge of chemistry. One has to assume that everything he has written is accurate if he wanted to maintain his credibility. And thankfully it is given to us in small doses so that it doesn’t distract from the story line. Chasing the author on Google shows him to have a quiet but interesting background.
Flavia scampers all over the place on her bike Gladys. It made me realize I miss seeing that in my town. Most of the few children I see on bikes are of primary school age. These days I rarely see a schoolgirl on a bike and I no longer see groups of boys on the corner of the streets, ogling the girls as they go by ! Bike culture has changed. At weekends you will see family groups of Mum, Dad and the littlies going for a sedate ride wearing the required helmets. Then there are the serious lycra-clad exercisers, heads down bottoms up eating up the roads. Bikes are now an extra to a life, not an essential part.
From the Family Album – Young Ladies and their Bikes 1950
While growing up I used to ride everywhere even out into the country side .One favourite destination was a fire-watching tower in a pine plantation. These towers were manned by people in the summer so that any column of smoke showing a potential bushfire could have its bearing taken to be triangulated with sightings from other fire towers. Many of them are still in use.
Within town boundaries there was the swimming dam, sometimes used in preference to the small concrete town pool. The dam was great, both socially and for the lovely dirty brown water. Well worth the ride to the outskirts of town. But no matter where you went there was that final steep hill to home which defeated me every time.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the wanderings it induced in my own mind.