Tuesday 23 July 2013


Book review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My edition: Paperback, published on 4 July 2013 by Phoenix (an Orion imprint), 324 pages.

Description: Bernadette Fox is notorious.

To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she's his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she's a menace. To design experts, she's a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum.

Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's place in the world.


Where'd You Go, Bernadette combines engaging storytelling with a unique mixture of quirkiness, satire and a good dose of intrigue.

Bernadette Fox has gone missing and her daughter Bee has gathered personal emails, handwritten notes, magazine clippings, doctors' bills and even classified FBI files, which she has put together in chronological order with additional notes by herself for oftentimes necessary clarification, to find out where her mother has gone. The majority of the novel is made up of the jumble of different writings that all relay the important, and sometimes not so important, information relating to Bernadette in the months leading up to her disappearance.

The fragments of stories, emails and various other snippets laid out for the reader provide a fascinating insight into the live of the mysterious Bernadette Fox. She is a woman who, though reasonably happy in her marriage to Elgie Branch - a big-shot at Microsoft and the man behind a robot in the form of a plaster coined Samantha 2 - and best friend to her genius daughter Bee, by the majority of the people around her is perceived standoffish and arrogant, looking down on the rest of the world. Matters are made worse by the fact that she lives in a huge property on top of a hill in Seattle which means she literally looks down on her neighbours, shuns the "gnats" (the name she's given her fellow mothers at Bee's school) and has a virtual assistant in India who she utilises for the most trivial of errands so she doesn't have to go out of the house and come across 'people'.

So when Bernadette disappears it doesn't come as a surprise to everyone. Elgie and the gnats think it all escalated after he found Bernadette asleep in the pharmacist while waiting for prescription drugs, but Bee thinks her mother's disappearance may be related to the blackberry bushes incident that led to their high-strung neighbour Audrey's house being caught in a mud slide. Whatever the reason, Bee is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and find out where her mother has gone.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a fresh piece of literature. Sharply written and with a unique voice, it is filled with quirky characters put in peculiar situations that often give hilarious results. Even though it is funny it's not a comedy per se, and while the underlying storyline is serious and Bernadette certainly has dramatic tendencies I wouldn't call it as a drama either. The book is a class of its own; a quirky, unique and mighty entertaining class.

Purchase your copy now from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about author Maria Semple? You can connect with her online at:

Website: www.mariasemple.com

Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorMariaSemple

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  1. This sounds really quirky, and like it has a sense of humour.

    Thanks for the review.


    1. This novel is really different from others I've read recently (in a good way!) and I would definitely recommend it!


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