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Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by…
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Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Maria Semple

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2,6352252,271 (3.98)300
Member:Hans_Verstraelen
Title:Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel
Authors:Maria Semple
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2012), Editie: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pagina's
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012)

  1. 20
    Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (cransell)
    cransell: Two fictional looks at working at Microsoft.
  2. 21
    Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (LBV123)
    LBV123: Rifka Brunt's novel similarly traces a complicated family history and the story of a complicated mother with artistic tendencies, and features an interesting and complicated teenaged narrator. While not as openly chasing the laughs as Semple's novel, Tell the Wolves is nonetheless humorous in its depiction of family politics--and deeply touching as it deals with both love and loss.… (more)
  3. 10
    This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes (lizchris)
    lizchris: About the madness of west coast America
  4. 10
    The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (cransell)
    cransell: Both quirky, humorous reads.
  5. 00
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Though Sweetness is more of a traditional mystery, it shares with Where'd You Go, Bernadette an endearing, precocious, and entertaining young narrator who pieces together clues from the adult world to solve a mystery. Character interactions are delightfully, humorously depicted.… (more)
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» See also 300 mentions

English (222)  Danish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (225)
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
If this book were not required reading for a book club, I would not have read it. Its cover clearly suggests shallow Chick Lit and its ungrammatical title - with its missing question mark - implies frivolousness. Despite the adage about not judging a book by its cover (and title, I might add), this time first impressions were not wrong.

Bernadette Fox is a renowned architect who has stopped working and is gradually retreating from the outside world, going so far as to hire a virtual assistant to minimize her contact with people. Then she disappears. Her teenaged daughter, Bee Branch, compiles a collection of communication from the time shortly before Bernadette’s disappearance in order to try and understand her mother and the reasons for her behaviour.

In terms of structure, this is a modern epistolary novel consisting of emails, official documents, a magazine article, and secret correspondence. This format with its many and mostly short entries makes for a quick read. Unfortunately, the author cheats and resorts to traditional expository narration when the limitations of her chosen structure prove to be too restricting. If a narrative structure isn’t sustainable, perhaps it is not the best choice.

According to the book jacket, this book is a “riotous satire of privilege.” I take exception to the adjective; parts are funny but certainly not unrestrainedly hilarious. There is satire of the shallowness of the wealthy, but the satire is itself shallow. The observations are ones that would be used on sitcoms to get a laugh; I prefer satire to have more bite. The targets of the rants (e.g. poor city planning, the self-help movement, politically-correct private schools, status-conscious parents) are not original either; they have been ridiculed before and more effectively too. And the focus on Seattle is also off-putting.

I found it difficult to relate to or like the characters. Though Bernadette is supposedly a genius, there is little evidence of her exceptional intelligence. Her rants offer no profound insights. She isolates herself and so becomes obsessed with her pet peeves about which she constantly whines. She is a quirky character and that’s fine, but is it logical that a person who uses email all the time would suddenly insist on writing a letter despite the fact that she is in a place that she herself admits has internet that is faster than she has ever seen. But then everyone else seems quirky too. Her husband, Elgin Branch, is certainly eccentric and even Bee is not a typical teenager. Not only does Bee not have a cell phone and has not been “corrupted by fashion and pop culture,” she seems largely unaffected when she learns about an extramarital affair. All that incessant quirkiness just becomes annoying.

The ending is just too tidy – a sitcom ending where everything is nicely resolved in the end. Everyone has an epiphany and sees the error of his/her ways. Even a character who has been reviled throughout becomes an angel.

This book is very readable because it requires little thought. For me, there is just too much fluff and not enough substance. I found myself not caring where Bernadette went. ( )
  Schatje | Jan 18, 2015 |
Writing humor alone is a difficult task. Making it farce is even harder. Combining that with a novel plot and distinct characters is almost unheard of. And to do it in epistolary format??? OMG as Bee’s friends would say. Oh and then there’s heart. This novel has it and all that other stuff in spades.

When it first came out, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? got lots of attention. People raved over it. I resisted. So many books aimed at women are just too sentimental for me and I put this in that bucket. Allow me to take it out. Sentimental is not something I’d call Bernadette, or anyone else in the book. Sure, it’s the story of a family and one whose members are genuinely connected to each other. But it isn’t soppy and the kid, Bee, isn’t an eyesore. I liked her which is really hard to make me do. Bernadette’s past and present are effectively mysterious and the cast of neighbors and hangers on are fabulous. The ending, while not assured, is reassuring and appropriate. ( )
2 vote Bookmarque | Jan 4, 2015 |
It was better than I expected, and I would have given it 3 stars if it didn't fall apart in the end. Once the author switched formats, from letters and reports to the daughter narrating the story, I didn't enjoy the book as much. It was a funny, light, quick read. ( )
  carebear10712 | Dec 31, 2014 |
When I first picked this up, I thought I would hate it. But by the end I was utterly charmed. Few books have such bite and can stay charmingly wacky. ( )
  gendeg | Dec 30, 2014 |
In a word, satisfying. That's what this story is. Quirky and lively and fun and a bit novel in its telling, but above all, at the end... satisfying.

And I really needed that kind of read right now. ( )
  phrenetic.mind | Dec 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
The book stumbles a bit in the middle as it transitions from a scathing anti-Seattle manifesto into a family drama with comic undertones. But once the gears have finished their grinding and the shuddering subsides, Semple eases into her strongest work yet, allowing her characters to change in a way that suits the story, and not just shooting for an easy punch line or a sharply worded barb. In the end, with its big heart set on acceptance, Bernadette feels something like coming home.
added by Nickelini | editthe Stranger, Paul Constant (Aug 12, 2012)
 
The tightly constructed “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is written in many formats — e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.
added by ozzer | editNY Times, Janet Maslin (Aug 6, 2012)
 
Semple is a TV comedy writer, and the pleasures of Where'd You Go, Bernadette are the pleasures of the best American TV: plot, wit and heart. (There are places where Semple really wants to be writing dialogue, and stretches the epistolary conceit of the novel to suit.) It's rather refreshing to find a female misunderstood genius at the heart of a book, and a mother-daughter relationship characterised by unadulterated mutual affection. If Bernadette is a monster of ego, Semple suggests, so are most people, when they're being honest. In her spiky but essentially feelgood universe, failure and self-exposure open up a rich seam of comedy, but shame can always be vanquished by love
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maria Sempleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Broeder, LindaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chichereau, CarineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Vicq, Fearn CutlerDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayes, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leiva Morales, ÁngelesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilhoite, KathleenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Xie, JingwenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Monday, November 15: Galer Street School is a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.
The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, "What's most important is for you to understand it's not your fault."
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When Bee aces her report card she claims her reward, which is a trip to Antarctica, but her mother, Bernadette, disappears due to her intensifying allergy to Seattle and people in general, which has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands and Bee uses emails, invoices, school memos, private correspondence, and other evidence to try and understand why her mother has left.
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When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her.

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