Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Book Reviews / Monday, April 1st, 2013

12611253Ah Bernadette!  You have got to love her in spite of all of her faults.  She’s witty, intelligent, and an immensely creative architect.  Unfortunately, something has happened to her, making her anti-social and borderline argoraphobic.  This is a novel that explores what can go wrong with someone and how that person is perceived by others.  It also speaks of personal limits.  The reader can’t help but love Bernadette Fox because her rants are sometimes the ones we want to do ourselves, but prefer to do it in our heads.  Not doing her job as an architect for a long while, she tries to cope with being stuck at home because she hates going out, while trying to raise her intelligent precocious daughter Bee.  Meanwhile her husband, Elgin, is a big computer guru working for the omnipresent Microsoft or MS as the people call it in the book. He is the reason they have moved to Seattle.

The book is an amazing introspection on what is wrong in American society.  Maria Semple has found an ingenious way of critiquing that through the usage of the different types of correspondence used to tell the story of what happens to Bernadette.  The most original aspect of this book is that it is told from multiple perspectives, using letters, emails, faxes, doctors reports, and interviews.  Some may argue that it isn’t literary enough because of that but I disagree.  What better way to critique society while using one of its devil evils, emailing, etc.  It’s clear that Semple has taken a lot of care into weaving the story.  There are many issues that are developed such as husband/wife relationships, mother/daughter relationships, being wealthy, creating, socializing, integrating into a community, etc.  What I love the most is that it got me to laugh out loud quite a few times.  It is an entertaining and gratifying read.  It really made me wonder how I would react to some of the things that happened to Bernadette.  At one moment, there is a reference to a novel with a famous architect in it and Bernadette’s creativity rivals his ingenuity.  The only thing is Bernadette is human and that fragility is what makes the reader empathise with her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is not Maria Semple’s first novel.  It was The One is Mine.  It is the story of a profoundly unhappy woman named Violet Parry, who is living a luxurious life with her husband David and her toddler Dot.  It’s not until she meets Teddy that things seem to be very different for her.  Semple wrote on various popular television series where she’s proved she knows how to tell a story.  She is credited for having worked on shows such as Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan Mad About You, 90210, and Ellen.  Writing might be in her blood as they say since her father Lorenzo Semple, Jr. worked on the television series of Batman.  Maria Semple lives in Seattle with her husband and her daughter Poppy.  Check out the link below where Semple talks about how she went about writing Where’d You Go, Bernadette and mentions a few excellent pointers for debutant writers.

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Genre:  Adult Fiction/Humor/Contemporary

Published:  August 2012

Edition:  Little, Brown and Company

Pages:  320

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * *

My favorite quote:  ”I was downtown early one morning and I noticed the streets were full of people pulling wheelie suitcases.  And I thought, Wow here’s city full of go-getters.  Then I realized, no, these are all homeless bums who have spent the night in doorways and are packing up before they get kicked out.  Seattle is the only city where you step in shit and you pray, please God, let this be dog shit.” (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, p. 124)


10 Replies to “Where'd You Go, Bernadette”

    1. I’ve put it on mine too on Goodreads. What do you think about Goodreads being bought by Amazon? I4m not happy at all about that. I’m thinking of doing a post about it and maybe shifting to another reading site.

  1. Do you think it will make it onto the shortlist? I am interested in the insight, sounds like an entertaining read anyway, we don’t always get many of those on awards lists.

    I’m not making any premature judgments about the Goodreads takeover, I value too much the interaction with others and knowing what they are reading to leave. I never use the Goodreads recommendations anyway, so don’t see how Amazon will change that, it’s the personal recommendations (not even recommendations, just knowing what is being read) that is more valuable and that way that is set up on Goodreads works reasonably well. Keeping an eye out for sure.

    1. I honestly will be very surprised if Where’d You go, Bernadette made it to the shortlist. There seems to be a refusal to accept such easy reading books on the list. I personally don’t agree with that but let’s keep it real, that’s often the case. Gone Girl is on the list and that one has gotten a lot of mixed reviews and would apparently be considered too mainstream for the award. Have you read it? What do you think? As for Amazon, I’m annoyed. They’re just going to use it to pump up there sales even more. It’s not enough for them to have all the information on what you look at and what you buy, they want to make more money. They will almost have the monopoly since they own Shelfari, The Book Depository, and now Good reads. Before you know it they’ll own Abebooks too.

  2. Great review. This was a fun and funny book, but with a quite moving mother-daughter love story at its core. I am not that familiar with Seattle, but I assume that her satire was accurate. I love books that are told in letters or diary entries as well.

  3. Good review! I will be adding this to my list. I too, am not happy about Amazon buying Goodreads. There has to be something left for independants… I’m not sure how, but I know Amazon will make a change to Goodreads that I cannot tolerate. I just don’t know of any other really good book sites that are independant. If you change, or find something else, let me know.

    1. At the moment I’m trying out booklikes.com. It’s ok but I love and prefer the contact on Goodreads. I won’t be changing for the moment. Thanks for the compliments and for commenting. I love to hear what everybody thinks and is reading. What are you reading?

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