Emily's Reviews > Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
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's review
Jan 05, 2013

it was amazing
Read from May 15 to June 01, 2012

So — YOU live in Seattle — THEREFORE – YOU totally get all the satirical references to the “Emerald City” lifestyle in this book.

On the other hand, you live, say in Austin, Texas, with
■Willie Nelson,
■InterGalactic-Headquarters to Whole Foods Market,
■InterGalactic-Headquters to Dell Computer

…and reading the book makes you realize that any thought you have about traveling to Seattle, perhaps to live there in retirement, just isn’t a good idea. Especially since your own town [Austin] has sunshine and Mexico [which is really OK and has wonderful food -- unlike, say, Canada, which, according to this book is too terrible to even talk about].

Maria Semple’s novel, “Where’d You Go Bernadette,” mercilessly pans Seattle [and don’t get her started on Canada !! ].

Upon opening the hardcover book, you will discover that a child is searching for her mother [Bernadette – said title character] and that said child is a student at Galer Street School:

“…a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.”

The first clue that the book will be a humourous treat to read is the redundancy of the words:

“…connectitude join together…”

In my opinion, it takes a humor writer of the first water to even conceive of such massive redundancy in the second line of her book.

Although a careful reader may wonder why the book opens with a child’s report card [said child Surpasses Excellence in all her studies], the answer is not forthcoming until near the end of the book when the answer to the title question begins to make sense.

Until then, the reader is taken on a hysterical ride through other people’s private e-mail, personal notes, hospital bills, magazine articles as well as: REAL-TIME ‼ FLASH reports.

Maria Semple gives us an Epistolary Novel – one told through documents – the brilliance of her story-telling arises as we enjoy our natural tendency to gossip. OH!! We are reading the private – never meant to be seen in public – mail from one person to another. Mail that paints the private and devilish feelings of Bernadette and her neighbor, Audrey. Feelings from both characters that are in opposition to what one hope’s would be a public, virtuous, persona, but which reveal roguish disregard for each other.

Bernadette’s husband, a Microsoft Star, gave a TEDTalk that every character in the book breathlessly reports: “…was the fourth-most watched TEDTalk of all time…!!!” And that, dear review readers, is HOW YOU KNOW that the man is a STAR – there are other clues to his star-status but he is SO NICE one must [if one is the author] find a way to stress his stardom. And, in keeping with the humorous tone of the book, it is necessary to refrain from making him a Gold, Silver or Bronze TEDTalker. Likewise, if it was only the fifth-most watched YouTube-TEDTalk of all time, who would care? So fourth-most watched it is.

My recommendation: READ THIS BOOK — READ A HARDCOVER. Apparently eBook readers think they are reading the same page over again — just because email headings are duplicated.


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