Posted by: billpurdue | March 31, 2011

Persistance has its rewards

I’ve missed a week to allow as many as possible to have the opportunity to listen to the interview with Roy Bainton attached to my last posting. Of course you can still go back to any of my previous postings, but once I post something new, the previous one is out of sight and out of mind.

How many times have you started a novel and not managed to get to the end because you just couldn’t get into it? Molly Flatt in her column in the Bookdiva (“where women’s books take centre stage”) writes that, where others would give up reading a book, she ploughs on till the end. She says that the strategy has sometimes paid off and gives examples of titles where the going got difficult, but persistence had its rewards. She gives some examples: Don Delilo’ s White Noise [new ed. out this month from Picador £8.99 978-0330524841] described by the Daily Telegraph as “An extraordinarily funny book on a serious subject”. She found Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter [ Bloomsbury £7.99 978-0747585176] irritating, but “it was good to push on”. You can read the whole of her column in Bookdiva : I’m very interested in reading her columns as she wrote earlier in the year about the value of libraries being staffed by professional librarians, rather than untrained people or even volunteers. Keep up the good work Molly!

Now for my latest recommendation – yes, it’s that good and I’m sure Molly Flatt would find it riveting. It’s particularly suitable for Agatha Christie fans who have probably read all her books three times over (or more) and want something in a similar vein. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie [Orion £7.99 9780752883212] by Alan Bradley might just fit the bill.

Flavia de Luce is the youngest of three sisters living with their philatelist father, Colonel de Luce, in a rambling country house near the village of Bishop’s Lacey in the heart of the English countryside. The year is 1950. Flavia is only 10 years old – going on 11, but perhaps that should be going on 30!  She is a self taught chemist, having the run of the abandoned laboratory in the house, which nobody else sets foot in.

When a dead bird with a penny black stamp stuck to its beak is found on the doorstep, Father appears visibly frightened, but worse is to follow. Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch uttering his last word ”Vale!”before he expires.  The police are called of course, but Flavia decides to do some sleuthing of her own aided by her knowledge of chemistry and particularly of poisons. The ten year old gets into a few scrapes while she’s making her investigations and like all good crime novels we are kept guessing until very late on in the book. On her way, the precocious Flavia meets some eccentric characters and uncovers a dark secret dating back to her father’s time at Greyminster school.

.. and all this from an author who only visited the UK when he was in his 60s. Alan Bradley grew up in Canada, but, as you will find at the end of this edition of the book he didn’t set foot in the UK until after he retired. As well as a potted biography of the author, you will find at the end of this edition some notes for reading groups and the first few pages of the sequel, which begins with Flavia’s funeral as experienced by Flavia herself – or does it? To find out what is going on I’ll have to read The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag [now out in paperback Orion £7.99 978-1409117605]

I’ve been trying to find out when Stephen Fry’s new BBC 2 series “Planet Word” is to be screened, but all I can find is the programme title in a list entitled “Coming Soon to BBC 2” – apart from a news story that is. Apparently Mr Fry and his QI colleague have offended the Japanese because of some nuclear bomb “jokes” in one of the episodes. As a result, the planned visit to Japan to film for “Planet Word” has been called off.  I’ll await developments.



  1. Glad you like the column Bill and thanks for the kind words. I will definitely check out the Bradley novel too – sounds like sa good compulsive read for spring.

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