The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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January 3, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

The library was probably the only room at Miss Bodycote's where one could be alone without being accused of being up to no good. I could see through the many-paned glass doors that no one was inside.
      As I let myself in, my nostrils were filled with musty but pleasant air, as if the books themselves were breathing in their sleep in the unventilated room. I made for the small fiction section and began scanning the shelves. ...
      None of the books were in alphabetical order, which made it necessary to cock my head sideways to read each one of the spines. By the end of the third shelf I had begun to realize why librarians are sometimes able to achieve such pinnacles of crankiness.  It's because they're in agony.
      If only publishers could be persuaded, I thought, to stamp all book titles horizontally instead of vertically, a great deal of unpleasantness could be avoided all around.Chiropractors and opticians would be out of business, librarians cheerier, and the world would be a better place. I must remember to discuss this theory with Dogger.
      Here, on a shelf near the bottom, was Ben Hur, and over there was Angela Thirkell. They were what Daffy called 'nice novels,' with that look on her face. Except for a couple of blue-covered novels about  a person named Nancy Drew, which had been read to ribbons, most of the books appeared seldom to have been opened.
      Ha!  Just as I had hoped. Tales of Edgar Allan Poe.
      I slid it from the shelf. The illustrations were horrific -- so horrific that I felt as if a moist snail were crawling across the back of my neck, especially when I turned to 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' ...
      I tucked the book under my arm for bedtime reading.

Now, I vaguely remember.... after the last {thankfully, not the last}, excellent Flavia de Luce, our heroine has been sent off {'Banished!'' I shouted the word into the tearing wind...Somewhere, a thousand miles behind us over the eastern horizon, lay the village of Bishop's Lacey and Buckshaw, where my father, Colonel Haviland de Luce, and my sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, were most likely, at this very moment, getting on nicely with their lives as if I had never existed.'} to Miss Bodycote's Female Academy, her late mother's old school in Canada. As the book opens, our Flavia is crossing a storm-tossed ocean, and plotting how she can murder her temporary guardians, the odious Dr. and Mrs. Rainsmith, through the wonders of chemistry.  And as it unfolds, we learn that Miss Bodycote's is a little Hogwartsesque with a mercurial headmistress, missing schoolgirls, classmates who tell her to trust no one, a body in the chimney, and a celebrated accused murderess for a chemistry teacher.  And we remember that in addition to inheriting Buckshaw, the family home, Harriet has inherited a membership in a secret organization whose purpose is still not quite clear.  I might say that Flavia is a little more serious and philosophical, away from her sisters and her chemistry laboratory, maybe because she is surrounded by slightly less interesting characters. Or, because she is finally twelve, after being eleven. {Or it might be that I miss listening to these, instead of reading them on the page.}  If someone were new to the series, I might not have them start with this one   But all very good fun, as usual.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the chance to enjoy this latest one over the holiday week.  It is being published tomorrow.


Frances said...

I'm jealous! I've been so curious about this one as I am about all of them. I can't tell but I don't sense your regular enthusiasm for Flavia fun?

Audrey said...

Hi, Frances! I did definitely enjoy it but not quite as much as the ones set at Buckshaw. Still, it would be impossible not to like being around Flavia, wherever she is.

Thank you for visiting!

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