‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple [Book Review]

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This book goes from your basic satire to madness in a very short period of time (especially since it’s not very long to begin with). This might have something to do with Bernadette–yes, title Bernadette–being one of those misunderstood geniuses that pop culture loves so much. I mean, can you really be a genius without also being crazy? (probably, and that is part of the suspense in this novel).

Even though it’s largely told through emails, articles, and the occasional court transcription, it never felt disconnected or confusing–yes, I’m looking at you Dracula by Bram Stoker, why did you have to be so confusing? I digress. Point being, I’d like to textually pat Maria Semple on the back for pulling something like that off and still having a fun novel as a result.

Image from FilmTV

While this is an entertaining read, it is also a mystery (of sorts) which means that there has to be at least some suspicion going around. I flipped from liking a character to questioning their sanity multiple time during this read which, well a bit distressing, made it really difficult to put down and, like, wash dishes or work or remember that I should be asleep at 2 am. Here’s a little taste of the wonderful voice of this novel:

My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.

Said by Bernadette

Through this voice, many heavy subjects are dealt with, such as depression, fear of failure, marriage problems, and social anxiety. But it never felt preachy or like it was trying to make any grand statements–people are complicated and this book chooses to face that head-on instead of sugar-coating it. And yet I wasn’t ultra depressed at any point while reading it! I don’t know what kind of dark magic Semple used to write it but it’s brilliantly done.

So why three stars? This has a lot to do with the ending, which I won’t go into detail with because I don’t want to spoil anything. Basically, I didn’t feel like the ending had the closure I wanted–it just sort of ended. Endings are really important for me and no matter how good the story was, if the ending is bad, there’s no saving it. But, well I don’t think I’ll read it again, I had a lot of fun with this novel and I don’t regard spending my time on it.

ALSO, there’s going to be a movie adaptation–which I didn’t know when I read it–so if you’re interested in that you can check out the trailer below:


Rating: 3 out of 5.

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