Review of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple

I loved this book. According to the author, many people claim THEY are just like “Bernadette” and I feel the same way. But I am right. It is I who am like Bernadette; the author captured me entirely! Well, except for the genius part. But the road rage, the people rage, the rage over injustice and the rest of it? Totally me!


Bernadette Fox is a former recipient of a genius grant because of her innovative architectural design. Now she is a frustrated angry housewife but loving mother to Bee, 15 and gifted. Bernadette’s husband Elgin is a top-level designer at Microsoft, who puts in long hours and exercises religiously when not at work. The family lives in a crumbling former school at the top of Queen Anne Hill, a neighborhood in Seattle.

As you can glean from the title, the plotline concerns the sudden apparent disappearance of Bernadette.

Much of the fun in this mostly-epistolary satirical book comes from the setting: from the climbing blackberry vines on the hill to the status-climbing parents at Bee’s school; from the hilarious send-up of the Seattle lifestyle to the ubiquity and comic possibilities of outsourcing; and of course from the hypocritical and fickle nature of humankind.

But this delightful book isn’t all about carping; it’s also about love, and how one will literally go to the ends of the earth for it. I’d call this a “don’t miss this” book!

Evaluation: After reading this, I immediately emailed everyone I knew looking for a good book. This one is imaginative, funny, and poignant, with witty and penetrating social commentary that is right on target.

Rating: 5/5

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2012

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31 Responses to Review of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple

  1. Mystica says:

    With a rating like this I have to find this book soon.

  2. Sandy says:

    Damn! You almost never give a book a five! I’m so happy, I really am, because this is a wonderful book. Precious, hilarious, and poignant. And yes that audio is as good as it gets.

  3. littlebookblog says:

    Think I need to give this a read! Sounds brilliant!

  4. WOW, Jill it seems like a while since you enjoyed a book as much as this. I do have the audio on my iPod, so it sounds like I better get to this one soon.

  5. Beth F says:

    I loved this too!!

  6. Charlie says:

    I’m not sure I know enough about it to decide whether to read it, but there are so many positive reviews of it, and now yours, I would like to flick through it and see.

  7. Haven’t read the book (yet!) but I loved your review of it! I always love when you & Jim play off of each other! 😀

  8. Have this on hold at the library and I am so looking forward to reading it-great review!!

  9. Such a good book… when I reread, I’ll try the audio!

  10. BermudaOnion says:

    I loved this book and I love your review of it! Sandy is right, the audio version is outstanding!!

  11. Jim’s opinion (and your responding “pffft”) made me chuckle! I think finding yourself in the character is as good a reason as any other to rank a book high. After all, it takes a lot of skill from the author to portray people so realistically.

    I had already seen a lot of glowing reviews of this book, but yours is the one that convinced me to put it on my list. I know you are very picky about handing out “5” ratings.

  12. This book hasn’t struck me as something that I would really like; however, I keep seeing glowing review after glowing review from other bloggers whose opinions I really respect (such as you!!!). I may have to try this one!

  13. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    hmm this makes me want to read the book after all, I felt like I’d read a somewhat negative review recently that turned me off it, but it showed up a couple of weeks (months?!?) ago so maybe I’ll read it after all!

  14. Barbara says:

    This isn’t something I would normally pick up to read, but I certainly am impressed by your rating and everyone else’s raves. Who knows?

  15. I thought my love of this one was just because I live in Seattle and all of that was SO TRUE. ha.

  16. Meg says:

    I’ve had the audio of this one reserved at the library for foreeevverrrrr . . . apparently other folks in Southern Maryland got wind that it’s outstanding! Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much, and hope a copy comes in for me soon!

  17. Absolutely adored it – I took Sandy’s audio-crack advice and listened to it. So good!

  18. litandlife says:

    Okay, I’m definitely reading this one and I think I’ll make my entire book club read it. Maybe this is just the book to convince them all to make time to read the books!

  19. JoV says:

    I really really want to know what you (Jill) is like! So I am going to reserve this from the library now! 🙂

  20. Athira says:

    Wasn’t this book just superb and brilliant? It got me into the post-Harry Potter trauma (i.e. going through a phase where you just want to read more exactly similar books and getting disappointed because nothing matches up).

  21. Jenny says:

    Yay! I loved this book and got it for my mother for Christmas because I thought it was such a dear of a book. I expected it to be sort of arch and mean-spirited but it wasn’t at all.

  22. I must agree with Jim…my 5’s are rare, or what is the point of a 5?
    Of course I don’t actually give numbs on my reviews, at least on the blog.

    I have this book, started it and got pulled away. Time to get back to it, it seems!

  23. I think this one is definitely going on my TBR list!

  24. Rita K says:

    Jill – I picked the book up and am halfway through it. I am laughing like crazy as she has Seattle depicted perfectly. I will let you know whether it is a 5 when I finish. At this point I think it will be!!

  25. Ti says:

    I think it’d interesting that Jim won’t give it a 5 because of Moby Dick. That was a totally different kind of book!

  26. Lucy says:

    I’ve been on the library waiting list for this title for months (the audiobook version.) I’m finally reaching the top of the list – yay! Fab review, Jill. Glad you loved it!

  27. stacybuckeye says:

    Well, pfftt! I didn’t like this one. So far only one blogger I trust agrees with me. Oh well. Maybe if I had felt more like Bernadette I would have fallen in love 🙂

  28. Rita K says:

    Jill – loved it! Not quite a 5 – check out my goodreads comments – but I laughed and was sad too while reading this! And you ARE a genius just like Bernadette!

  29. Jenners says:

    Oh that audio was sublime!!! I expect you would have loved it even more … perhaps given it a 6 or something!!!

  30. bookingmama says:

    I adored this book as well but I’m wishing I had listened to it!!

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