My fourth visit to Flavia De Luce found her posh but impoverished family preparing for Christmas by allowing their home to be used to film a movie, starring two of Britain’s brightest acting stars.
As this is a Flavia De Luce novel, it’s clear that Flavia will discover at least one dead body without having to leave her isolated little village. As it’s a Christmas special, it’s also clear that the plot will be as plausible as “Miracle on 34th Street”. As it’s an Alan Bradley novel, it’s clear the writing and the characterisation will ferry your imagination into a world that feels true even if it doesn’t always seem real.
In this visit I got a spectacular winter snowstorm, an insight into Aunt Felicity’s murky wartime activities, a scene from Romeo and Juliet performed in Buckshaw’s shabby splendour, a gruesome murder and rooftop fight to the death as well as learning about the chemistry of fireworks and more ways of producing poisons at home.
I make these visits in order to meet Flavia, who has captured my heart, In this book her energy is only exceeded by her curiosity as she tries to solve a murder, prove whether or not Santa Claus exists, reak revenge (real and imaginary) on her sisters and garnish scraps of approval and affection from the people she loves.
The reason I visit Flavia is best demonstrated in “I Am Half-sick Of Shadows” by the way she treats Dogger, the manservant at the Flavia’s palatial but decaying home. Dogger suffers from fits of the terrors, a legacy from his experiences in a Japanese-run prisoner of war camp. One of these fits overtakes him when he is alone with Flavia. Flavia, eleven-year-old Flavia, eases him out of his attack, banishing his ghosts and giving him his dignity by letting him recover while she looks out at the pre-Christmas snow, reflecting aloud on the billions of oxygen and hydrogen atoms it takes to make the “stiff water” of a snowflake, continuing her monologue until he slips into sleep.
These moments of compassion and companionship fleck the narrative of these books with bright points of poetry that make me wish I knew Flavia and that, if I did, I would be one of the people with the insight to see her for who she really is rather than dismissing her as just another precocious girl.
I know Flavia is a fictional character, but still… fictional characters like her are what make fiction worth reading.
I read “I Am Half-sick Of Shadows” for the Cozy Mystery square of Halloween Bingo. I think it’s the perfect archetype of that concept.