This book won me over in the first ten pages.
In the few days it took me to finish, Where’d You Go Bernadette was all I thought about. And now, several days after I’ve finished it, I still haven’t shaken this beautiful, hilarious novel.
I’m not the first person to feel this way. Where’d You Go Bernadette, published in 2012, is so beloved that it’s being made into a feature film by director Richard Linklater, and is set to star Cate Blanchett as eponymous central character Bernadette Branch.
The novel is narrated by 15-year-old Bee, daughter of eccentric, agoraphobic, and brilliant Bernadette and her Microsoft executive husband Elgin. The wealthy family lives in Seattle, a city Bernadette despises, and is in the midst of planning a trip to Antarctica when the matriarch disappears.
Bee, desperate to find out what happened to her mother, narrates the story by compiling emails, hospital bills, and correspondence between Bernadette and her therapist. It’s an eclectic collection of documents that perfectly tells the story of a complicated, secretive woman. Bee sporadically narrates in the first person to fill in gaps between the shared emails and notes, and as the book progresses the reader starts to piece together not only Bernadette’s life and whereabouts, but also the complex relationship she had with her daughter.
Where’d You Go Bernadette is satirical. This book is a dream come true for people with a strong, sarcastic sense of humour. Through satire and humour, author Maria Semple writes an interesting critique on motherhood and mental health. She deftly weaves hilarious encounters between Bernadette and her nosy neighbours in with heart-wrenching storylines about childhood illness and career collapse.
This book made me feel lighter. It eased my stress a little and, for the first time in quite a long time, gave me a genuine burst of inspiration to write my own material.
An accomplished screenwriter on shows like Arrested Development and Ellen, it is clear that Semple is a master at her craft. When you read a book that flows as nicely as Where’d You Go Bernadette, you know you’re reading the work of a truly gifted writer.
Where’d You Go Bernadette is one of my favourite books so far this year. I know Christmas is still a while away, but this is a perfect gift for your mother or sister. Without a doubt I give this novel a 10/10 stars.
On a more personal note, this book really did help me through some stressful, chaotic times I’ve been having in my own life. Despite being funny and satirical, Where’d You Go Bernadette tells a very genuine story of love and loss, and it was a pleasure to read a book that made me think critically about the world while at the same time still really wanting to live in it.