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!

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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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