Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- 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
- 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 too.
- What is your favorite scene from The Sweetness at the Bottom of
- 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?
- 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 mold?
- 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 to?
- 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
- Discuss the meaning (or meanings) of the title The
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
- What twists in the plot surprised you the most?
- 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 surrounding area.
- What does Flavia care about most in life? How do the people around
her compare to her chemistry lab and books?
- 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
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bantam Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.