Thursday, November 17, 2011
A Red Herring Without Mustard
After thoroughly dragging out listening to A Red Herring Without Mustard, I finally finished it. This was the third in the Flavia De Luce mystery series, and was a thoroughly engaging read. While I didn't enjoy it as much as the first novel, it was still greatly entertaining.
For the good parts of this book. Flavia's character is fleshed out further. She is developing, albeit slowly, into maturity. Her sisters and father are also humanized. The novel seemed to emphasize Flavia's loneliness and the ill effects that isolation at Buckshore has on the family as a whole. While Flavia's father has always been a distant figure, his utter disengagement from the rest of the family was felt more fully with this novel. The sub-plot of the portrait of the girls really served to emphasize how distant he had previously been, while hinting at the possibility of his becoming re-engaged with the rest of the family. Ophelia and Daphne also showed more rounded characters as well. While their harsh treatment of their sister has only grown worse as the novels go on, it wasn't until this novel that their own desperation to escape their isolated life emerged. Ophelia's attempts to escape are demonstrated with her flirtations, whereas Daphne buries herself in her books. I particularly enjoyed Flavia's explanation of the truce she and Daphne sometimes engaged in.
One criticism I've read about the sisters is that their cruel behavior is unlikely. Personally, I disagree with that statement. I'm quite a bit older than my own sister (nine years) and even though I know that I should behave more maturely, there are times when I wind up in horrible fights and say things as immature and hurtful as in the books. That sort of thing is natural among siblings. Even though my sister and I get along quite well the majority of the time, we both know the best ways to annoy and hurt each other.
Anyways, I particularly enjoyed the addition of Porcelain's character. While I still have many questions about her- like how old she was, how she was living in London by herself, and why she wasn't living with her grandmother if she was young enough to have such an equal relationship with Flavia- her addition really helped the author further drive Flavia's loneliness home. While I had noticed that Flavia personified her bicycle, it didn't really get driven home how desperate Flavia was for a friend. Her daydreams about being invited to tea with Antigone and her husband demonstrated how desperate Flavia is for a loving, engaged family.
It was, overall, a depressing read. I'm anxious to listen to the next book, as I'm hoping it will involve a more engaged home-life for Flavia, and a bit more happiness.
As for the bad parts of the novel, I have only one real criticism. The plot was very drawn out, and there were points where I grew frustrated because I figured out answers chapters before Flavia did.
(Really Flavia? You couldn't figure out why your fire-dogs went missing and then later reappeared coupled with Brookie's mysterious appearance in your house?)
The conclusion, however, wasn't spelled out. It was unexpected enough to still be enjoyable. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I'm quite anxious to read the next in the series.