The Flavor of Flavia

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Why read a Flavia de Luce mystery? Besides the “who done it”- brain jogging action of a tightly crafted plot, when the eleven-year old sleuth isn’t creeping through the grave yard on a foggy night in search of clues, author Alan Bradley entertains with humor, family interactions, village idiocy and diverting prose, especially his delicately crafted figures of speech. The samples cited below originated in the first five Flavia de Luce mysteries. The sixth member of the series—The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches—was published in January of 2014. Perhaps these quotes will encourage you to sample a Flavia mystery and encourage you in your own writing?

 

Malapropisms (These originate with Mrs. Mullet, the cook. Look for the several allusions to her burnt offerings.)

Ink quest and poets’ mortem

It gives me dire-rear.

The four horsemen of the pocket lips

Colder sock

The train makes your stomach go all skew-gee.

Retorts

Do that again and I’ll scream your name and your brassiere size.

No need to get owly!

I was not going to be circumlocuted.

Alliteration

Suffering cyanide!

Time hung heavily on our behinds.

That smarmy, sanctimonious look in humbug humility

Like a corpulent cockroach, she waddled toward the windows.

Shreds of nibbled newsprint

To talk of guts, gore and Tetley’s tea

The seed of a smile

Heathered Highlands

A flurry of freezing flakes

Scrapping clouds scudded across the moon swept along on a river of wind.

Allusion

 

A gander at Mother Goose

I was the eighth dwarf. Sneaky.

The urge to rip into the gift like a lion into a Christian

Feely had more swains than Ulysses’ wife Penelope.

Brought to an abrupt end by tragedy and a woman scorned

She pointed like the third ghost in Scrooge and disappeared.

Instantly recognizable from Greenland to New Guinea

A great actress can never be greater than when she’s staring in her own life.

Its lamps making cornucopias of foggy yellow light in the falling snow

She tempted fate to hand her another cadaver.

I hated her seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin.

Personification

Our furnace has been bearing its fangs

Ragged children of ammonia

The scent of things best not thought about

To a professional soldier death was life.

A hidden part of me was coming back to life.

Grind with whatever grist you are given.

Fingers of friendship

Clearing the paternal throat

Simile

Her eyes, like two mad raisins in her wrinkled face, never left mine.

A lie wrapped in detail like a horse pill in an apple

The conversation stopped abruptly as if it had been cut off with a scissors.

Tombstones leaned like jagged brown teeth.

Looked like a vulture sucked up by a tornado and spit back out

Curled up in the library like a prawn

We shall eat like Corsican bandits and sleep like the dead.

Saint Tancred’s went through organists like a python goes through white mice.

He followed her about like a bad smell.

The Choir: Shoulder to shoulder like singing sardines.

He looked like a cherub brought to life. And he knew it.

She hangs around in silence like a clogged drain.

His face turned slowly, like a sunflower, toward the sound of my voice.

Her mouth so tightly pursed as if pulled by draw strings

Like shaking hands with a pineapple

Had us twitching like crickets

My nose running like a trout stream

Her face drained slowly like a wash basin.

Metaphor

The soup of bones below: the soup of which I was about to become just another ingredient.

“Good sport” was not among the phrases that described her, “ogress” however was.

Who’s Who, a catalog of the same old dry sticks harrumphing their way toward the grave

If poisons were ponies, I’d put my money on cyanide.

That was the way with ghosts, though they appeared at the strangest times and in the most peculiar places.

If cooking were a game of darts, most of Mrs. Mullet’s concoctions would be barely on the board.

I tend to make a swine of myself when there’s cake to be had.

She never missed an opportunity to dig in a critical oar.

Grumblers are deaf to any voices but their own.

The forest of gravestones

Lifting a dramatic forefinger

These two creaking relics had walked through deep drifts of snow.

 

Oxymoron

My sister was a pious fraud

Climbed into my refrigerated clothing

Inky scribblers

A pack of convalescent vampires

Hyperbole

Compared with my life Cinderella was a spoiled brat.

Life had become a long corridor of locked doors.

Bishop’s Lacey, a notable hotbed of crime

Spider webs clanging like horseshoes against the wall

Hug him to jelly

I let her silence linger until it was hanging by a thread.

I thought about these things until my brains were turning blue.

A voice that originated somewhere down among her kidneys

She was the local equivalent of small pox.

Once Max got started (talking) you might as well put down roots

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much a thud.

Would go on talking of these events until they were toothless

It smelled as if a sick brontosaurus had broken wind

An eye like a bloodshot harvest moon

His rat faced and rat hearted wife slinking home alone through the graveyard

Photographed almost to distraction

She was short and gray and round as a mill stone

Unbearably stiff upper lipped

Have my guts for garters

So tired I feel asleep with my eyes open

Irony

I never cared for flippant remarks, especially when others make them.

This was a lie, but a first-rate one.

Divorce him with a dose of strychnine.

She said something that had it lived might have become a chuckle.

A perfect rainbow of ruin

Gout: a painful disease of those who love their wine more than their livers.

Mediocrity was the greatest camouflage.

Pension: a small sum to tide him over to the church yard.

Stones worn down by 200 years of privileged feet

The corners of her mouth turned up about the thickness of a page.

Whenever I’m a little blue I think about cyanide.

Sometimes I hated myself but not for long.

She stood waiting for the vicar to come scurrying to her.

Dealt out poisons with a happy hand

Inflict her hand picked gifts upon us

She looked as if she had been up to no good, and knew perfectly well what I knew.

Pus-like custard pie

Laughed toothily

Hammered together by well meaning but inept carpenters

About DonMulcare

A retired biologist with current interests in vegetable gardening, volunteering at a local nursing home, reading, and writing. Other activities include the study of the practical aspects of applied Gerontology, splitting logs, digging for quahogs and writing blogs. https://dmulcare.wordpress.com/
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3 Responses to The Flavor of Flavia

  1. LarryPeterson says:

    This post is absolutely and positively a “keeper” as it is an in your face instrumental teaching tool. I shall keep it as a reference sheet. Might even try a Flavia mystery to go along with it. Thanks for posting.

  2. Don, this is the most delightful book review…you’ve totally sold me….don’t know if all the GREAT LINES would sell the public, but for an audience of WRITERS, this is irresistable!

  3. DonMulcare says:

    Hi Charlotte and Larry,

    Alan Bradley captures his readers with his imagery. Virtually every sentence is a gem. I agree that writers should appreciate his skills, even if they write in another genre. Reading his prose jogs my own creativity. I can train my mind through the exercise of constantly re-reading these and other selected lines from his novels.

    Another author that does this for me is Terry Pratchett. He sets every word as would a jeweler place a stone in an elaborate brooch. With such care, these authors blur the line between prose and poetry.

    Charlotte, I heard that Yahoo security has been breached and users have been urged to change their passwords.

    God Bless,

    Don