BernadetteWhere’d you go, Bernadette? is a witty yet touching comedy novel by Maria Semple. It came out in 2012, but I have been recommended it by several people recently and decided to give it go Рand I’m glad I did.

It’s a book about Bernadette Fox, a talented recluse living in Seattle with her husband Elgie Branch and their daughter Bee. We discover that Bernadette was a brilliant architect back in Los Angeles with a bright future ahead of her when something happens that causes her to be very receptive to the idea of moving to Seattle with Elgie for his job at Microsoft.

Once living in Seattle, Bernadette has several miscarriages before having their daughter Bee, who is born with a heart defect. We join the family when Bee is at school and about to go off to an elite boarding school. As a reward for her hard work – Bee’s¬†a brilliant student – she requests a cruise to Antarctica, which her parents agree too. However things have been unravelling for a while and the prospect of a trip in a confined space with lots of people sends Bernadette into a spiral.

It’s an epistolary novel; told through a series of letters, e-mails and texts between the characters, which as the author says,

[…] can open up a world of possibilities. The writer can be an unreliable narrator, for instance. They can be writing something we know will fall into the wrong hands. They can be wrongly interpreting an event base on something the reader knows but the character doesn‚Äôt.

What I really like about this book is how the main character is so brilliant, yet flawed, and using letters means you really understand why she acts and reacts the way she does, but you also understand why people feel frustrated by her.

It is clear from Semple’s writing that she is used to writing comedy, but the way she deals with depression, agoraphobia and the mother-daughter bond is heart warming while still remaining a witty book. I would recommend this to anyone, and I look forward to Semple’s next book coming out on October 13, called Today Will Be Different.

-Danielle Triggs
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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