Friday, 7 June 2013

The Buckshaw Chronicles ~ Alan Bradley

The Buckshaw Chronicles, Volume 1The Buckshaw Chronicles, Volume 1 by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This charming volume of Flavia de Luce novels caught my eye at, of all places, Costco. I had no idea who Alan Bradley is and had never heard of Flavia de Luce, but I decided to give it a chance.

These novels are probably my favourite read of this year to date. Flavia de Luce is an eleven-year-old girl living in a huge ancestral home with her absent minded father and two sisters Daphne and Ophelia.

As Bradley fleshes out Flavia, we discover that her mother died shortly after she was born in a mountain climbing accident. Her sisters, who are engrossed in their own world of reading and preening, are engaged in constant warfare with her of epic sibling proportions. Her father is an avid stamp collector and appears to be more interested in his hobby than in A) the going-ons of his daughters and B) the fact that the family estate "Buckshaw" is heavily in debt.

Oh, and to make the offering even more delightful, the novel is set in England during the 50s. There's something about those years that is so fascinating to me and these stories do not fail to deliver. References to movies, celebrities, books, music, truly all the 50s pop culture, amused me to no end.

In the first novel, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we meet Flavia and discover that she is a young girl who is extremely clever, especially when it comes to...chemistry. She's not your typical heroine, which also makes the books so endearing. She concocts potions in her lab to inflict her sisters with non-permanent illnesses (swollen lips, skin conditions) and she dabbles in the art of...sleuthing.

Throughout the first novel we are also introduced to characters in the nearby village, which carries on into the second and third novels as well. There's nothing better than reading a series of books with the same beloved characters recurring.

In each of the novels in this trilogy, Flavia is somehow involved with a murder and becomes part of the investigation by trying to figure things out for herself. She swoops around the nearby villages on "Gladys" her bicycle, attempting to stay one step ahead of Inspector Hewitt, all the while avoiding duties at home and her sisters ongoing attempts to lock her into closets.

Flavia is an extremely likable protagonist. Even though I thought it was going to be strange to read a set of adult fiction novels about an eleven year old girl, I was not disappointed. It was such a great read and I highly recommend all three of the novels in this trilogy. Bradley does a fantastic job with all the characters and the conversations between each of them.

4/5 stars and I'm looking forward to reading the next two novels.

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