1. With her high level of knowledge, her erudition and her
self-reliance, Flavia hardly seems your typical eleven-year-old
girl. Or does she? Discuss Flavia and her personality, and how her
character drives this novel. Can you think of other books that have
used a similar protagonist?
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie falls
within the tradition of English country house mysteries, but with
the devilishly intelligent Flavia racing around Bishop's Lacey on
her bike instead of the expected older woman ferreting out the
truth by chatting with her fellow villagers. Discuss how Bradley
uses the traditions of the genre, and how he plays with them
3. What is your favourite scene from The Sweetness at
the Bottom of the Pie?
4. With her excessive interest in poisons and revenge, it's no
surprise that Flavia is fascinated, not scared, as she watches the
stranger die in her garden. In your view, is her dark
matter-of-factness more refreshing or disturbing?
5. Flavia reminds us often about Harriet, the mother she never
knew, and has many keepsakes that help her imagine what she was
like. Do you think the real Harriet would have fit into Flavia's
6. Flavia's distance from her father, the Colonel, is obvious,
yet she loves him all the same. Does their relationship change over
the course of the novel in a lasting way? Would Flavia want it
7. Through Flavia's eyes what sort of a picture does Alan
Bradley paint of the British aristocracy? Think as well about how
appearances aren't always reality, as with the borderline
bankruptcy of Flavia's father and Dr. Kissing.
8. Discuss the meaning (or meanings) of the title The
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
9. What twists in the plot surprised you the most?
10. Buckshaw, the estate, is almost a character in its own right
here, with its overlarge wings, hidden laboratory, and pinched
front gates. Talk about how Bradley brings the setting to life in
this novel - not only Buckshaw itself, but Bishop's Lacey and the
11. What does Flavia care about most in life? How do the people
around her compare to her chemistry lab and books?
12. Like any scientist. Flavia expects her world to obey certain
rules, and seems to be thrown off kilter when surprises occur. How
much does she rely on the predictability of those around her, like
her father and her sisters, in order to pursue her own interests
(like solving the murder)? Is Flavia truly surprised when Feely and
Dogger come to her rescue?