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Where'd You Go, Bernadette
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Country and Territories > Where'd You Go, Bernadette (July 2018)

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Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1432 comments Mod
Countries and Territories for June: Antarctica


Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments Read this when it first came out. Humorous book about modern US life, family life and pressures of living in the Silicon Valley. It has to be said the Antarctica bid of the story is probably it's weakest part, but still entertaining and a good vehicle for showing that even if you love your family, sometimes you need to get away - even to the Antarctica.


Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1432 comments Mod
I’m so excited to read this because I kept seeing the book everywhere! I started it yesterday :)


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments Mariah wrote: "I’m so excited to read this because I kept seeing the book everywhere! I started it yesterday :)"

It's great fun to read, but has serious issues within.


Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1432 comments Mod
I’m finding this book boring... I’m actually struggling to finish it.


Ella (ellamc) Mariah wrote: "I’m finding this book boring... I’m actually struggling to finish it."

I borrowed the audio from my library earlier this year & didn't mind it much. It wasn't the best book (and actually has very little about Antarctica - they go there, but very little is said about the place.)

You might try the audio, but I've read many reviews that really hated that too, so I may be the only one who didn't mind it.


Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1432 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "Mariah wrote: "I’m finding this book boring... I’m actually struggling to finish it."

I borrowed the audio from my library earlier this year & didn't mind it much. It wasn't the best book (and act..."


I'm listening to the audiobook right now... but I'm just bored haha Its not that its a bad book.. just slow and not super catchy.

I agree about Antarctica. There is like nothing in this book about it.


Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1432 comments Mod
I finished this book 2 days ago. Here is my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Lori | 2 comments I chose to read this book back in 2013 because I am a sucker for epistolary. Although the review I wrote back then does not provide too much insight as to the content of the book, I would love to dive in and dissect each of the characters! https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Mariah Roze (mariahroze) | 1432 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "I chose to read this book back in 2013 because I am a sucker for epistolary. Although the review I wrote back then does not provide too much insight as to the content of the book, I would love to d..."

Ooooh! Can we dissect the mother first? Haha


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments I read it several years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved the audio voice (and the actress who read the book) - it was very quirky and young sounding - but I know it won't appeal to everyone.

The timing was good for me with this book. I needed something quirky and different. I found it a refreshing change from the serious reading I had been doing at that time. You have to just go with the flow on this one.

I loved the kid, and I found the mother very interesting. At first she was just annoying with her negative attitude about just about everything and everyone, but I was starting to understand her. I remember the father's TED talk and I wondered if it was based on a real project.

Her architecture approach was really interesting, and I wonder if anyone actually does that. It reminded me of trendy restaurants in some areas (e.g the Bay area) and their focus on local ingredients.

The Antarctica section wasn't very long, but it gave an interesting picture of how people lived in the research facilities.

I don't remember the specifics, but there was a discussion of symbolism in the book. There was something about the invasive vine plant in their yard - blackberries maybe.


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments NancyJ wrote: "I read it several years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved the audio voice (and the actress who read the book) - it was very quirky and young sounding - but I know it won't appeal to everyone.

Th..."

I seem to remember there was a plant, weeds I believe, which absolutely overtook all other plants and strangled them. Seemed to me a bit like the society this books is in, with its perfect Silicone Valley jobs, houses and families. Strangling individuality, maybe. Could also be that I am reading too much into it.


message 14: by NancyJ (last edited Jul 17, 2018 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Gisela wrote: "NancyJ wrote: "I read it several years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved the audio voice (and the actress who read the book) - it was very quirky and young sounding - but I know it won't appeal to..."

Gisela, that makes perfect sense to me. That's how she viewed her community, particularly the mothers at her daughter's school (I remember thinking it was like my kid's school), and her neighbor.

I also think it was about the struggle of people to control the environment, as well as the struggle to protect it. Bernadette failed to see the dangers to her home even when she saw the signs that the plant was invading her home and pushing through the floor. Humans are failing to protect the earth despite the fact that we see so many signs (e.g. in Antarctica) of the threats to our planet.

There were also insights about relationships, and the struggles of living in society. Bernadette made a lot of mistakes in how she dealt with problems, and on a few occasions I acted on the lessons I learned from her mistakes.

I liked when the author gave us a glimpse of life from the neighbor's point of view, which was sometimes sad but mostly funny as I recall. I always love seeing multiple perspectives of the same event.

I"m really sorry I can't reread this right now. I know there were some conflicts and wacky events that might appear superficial but perhaps had more meaning. I would love to hear what other people saw that I didn't see.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Mariah wrote: "Lori wrote: "I chose to read this book back in 2013 because I am a sucker for epistolary. Although the review I wrote back then does not provide too much insight as to the content of the book, I wo..."

Yes, let's do that! She is an interesting character.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Starting it."

Hi April, I can't wait to hear what you think. Most of the story takes place in your area, right?


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Gisela, I am about 2/3rds done, and I agree with your opinions. Enforced Conformity along with punishing anyone who colors outside the lines seems to be a theme. Blackberry bushes ARE like weeds in Seattle. Any open space (rare, now) left alone in Seattle will soon be made inaccessible by blackberry bushes springing up everywhere.

btw, I was born in Seattle. I have seen it change from a noir blue-collar/underclass city of mostly eighth-grade educated loggers, fishermen, farmers, lowly military men and miners with their ignorant and desperate worn-out wives and children, with everyone dominated by robber founder barons, to a city where poverty is now defined by middle-class hipster people earning less than $250,000 annual salary with only bachelors degrees.

Everything Bernadette says about Seattle is TRUE - of the middle-classes. But I have also lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as a lower-class secretary, and there are a few true things about those cities I noticed as well.

Before I had experience of other cities and after I had moved to another big city for the first time, the street habit of walking San Franciscans to look me in the face and study it TERRIFIED ME. At that time. I got used to it, but it still makes me uncomfortable. In Seattle, the custom of 1960’s and 1970’s residents was to look away when passing fellow travelers. Also, people in California dressed in a manner to me which looked vividly wild and colorful, in my First Contact. In Seattle, we residents at the time wore mostly dark colors of blue and brown and beige. Maybe because dark colors hid the blackberry stains best.

; )


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) NancyJ - I think Seattle’s roots are originally based on folks who would have been classified as Libertarians, whether left or right. The people in Seattle today are really STILL Libertarian, even if they think they are leftie liberals or Sander democrat socialists. The real few liberals DO throw money on poor people every chance they get, and I think they hope that is enough, and are disappointed when it isn’t.


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Gisela, I am about 2/3rds done, and I agree with your opinions. Enforced Conformity along with punishing anyone who colors outside the lines seems to be a theme. Blackberry bushes ARE like weeds in..."

Same is true for London. We lived there in the 90s and it was expensive but we were young and started out in our careers, me as an accountant and my husband as a researcher and we just about could afford half a Victorian workers cottage in the not-so-desirable parts. This flat is now worth 5 times as much and you have to earn at least £250,000 a year to get a mortgage or it or come from a rich family I guess (needlessly to say we don't and of course had to sell this flat to move on, alas). Even social housing is now converted into luxury flats! Very few "normal" people can live there now. Same with Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford,......


Laura H (laurah30) | 2 comments I loved this book and read it with my book club a couple of years ago. The whole blackberry thing cracked me up with the mud slide - Bernadette knew what she was doing! As a retired educator, I loved the school community portrayal - as a former principal- I recognized some of those parents.
I love the suggestion that the blackberry bushes as a symbol of strangling individuality - very good. Just think of that house - she was an architect who lived in that crazy house where it was utter chaos - she just seemed to give up on the very thing she loved.
Other members of my club did not like it as much as I did but we did get into a great discussion about feminism, careers, motherhood that was quite raucous.


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments Laura wrote: "I loved this book and read it with my book club a couple of years ago. The whole blackberry thing cracked me up with the mud slide - Bernadette knew what she was doing! As a retired educator, I lov..."
I think you are right, the mother gave up and that's where my sympathy sort of ended. One thing to give up on your ideals, work and society, but to leave your family? But maybe she had to do this to try and find something for herself again. However, I find this sort of thing always difficult, just can't ever imagine any situation where I would leave my children!


message 22: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 123 comments I read this book a couple of years ago. I thought it was quirky and enjoyable to read but it didn't have much substance.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) I finished it. To me, it has elements of the TV show “Arrested Development”, only with more realism. Semple helped produce that show, and she actually did move from Los Angeles to Seattle with her child and husband. I thought the novel was very funny and entertaining. There is some clever literary symbolism, and Semple nails those cultural aspects whe was trying to spotlight accurately, in my humble opinion. I googled the book and came up with some reviews which discuss if her Microsoft portrayal was true to life (apparently it is), and I can attest to her spot-on portrayals of genuine high-level ‘geniuses’, since I was an ‘Admin’ (secretary, office manager) in different capacities myself. There was enough Antarctica plot and information to justify having chosen this novel for the club - barely. ; p

That said, it is a humorous chick-lit, in my opinion. I liked it. It is fun and entertaining, a beach read.


message 24: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Jul 20, 2018 08:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Bernadette is definitely a complex character. She certainly needed therapy for her depression, grief and rage, but she would and could never be fitted into a conforming social scene. Elgin was just as weird if you ask me, but because he was male, he was forgiven his lack of conformity. The neighbors had a lower bar of social expectations for men, and they more quickly forgave him his lack of social skills. This is gender inequality in its worst aspect. They both lived for their work, but people thought Bernadette was the monster because she grieved her job, but Elgin was accepted although he was more neglectful as a father in submersing himself in his work, and in the pride he had in his competence.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Laura wrote: "I loved this book and read it with my book club a couple of years ago. The whole blackberry thing cracked me up with the mud slide - Bernadette knew what she was doing! As a retired educator, I lov..."

Yes, it seemed like it was all or nothing with Bernadette. She threw herself into her career so intensely, but then (due to frustration, fame, failure?) she just turned her back on it. She closed off that side of herself so fully she didn't notice that the very structure of her own house was in danger. (What is that old phrase about the shoemaker's kids.) I'm also a former academic and she was like some researchers I knew -very intense but sporadic. It really did bring up a lot of feminist ideas in me too.


message 26: by NancyJ (last edited Jul 23, 2018 03:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Bernadette is definitely a complex character. She certainly needed therapy for her depression, grief and rage, but she would and could never be fitted into a conforming social scene. Elgin was just..."

The husband in this book reminds me of the husband in Little Fires Everywhere - there but not quite there. I'm starting to notice this in other books too. Some female authors are doing the same thing that many male authors have done for years - they focus their character development on the gender they know best, and give us rough outlines or stereotypes for the other. The Ted Talk was a nice modern twist though.


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Bernadette is definitely a complex character. She certainly needed therapy for her depression, grief and rage, but she would and could never be fitted into a conforming social scene. Elgin was just..."

Totally agree


message 28: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy (audioaddict1234) | 53 comments I’m reading this book now and was having a hard time remembering why it was chosen in this gtoup until I came to this discussion. I had shied away from this book earlier bc I expected it to be a shallow chic read. While some of the characters do seem pretty shallow, the book itself has some great themes and symbolism. Symbolism usually flies past me, so I likes that it was recognizable here.

Right now I’m on part V and really frustrated that no one seems to care that a 13 (14?) yo girl has essentially lost her mother!

I’m listening to the audio and I think this one would be better in print or with multiple narrators. It’s just too easy to lose track of who is speaking. Better now than in the beginning, but still easy.


Gisela Hafezparast | 30 comments Joy wrote: "I’m reading this book now and was having a hard time remembering why it was chosen in this gtoup until I came to this discussion. I had shied away from this book earlier bc I expected it to be a sh..."
No I get what you mean. I thought so too and it really diminished my sympathy for Bernadette. I have a 13 year old daughter and I would NEVER leave her. However, people are different and there might be a case that she might have been a much more negative influence on the daughter in the state of mind she was in. I sort of can see that she might have needed to get away, but not to tell where she was going and worrying her family was very selfish.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 18 comments I read this last year sometime I think, and I remember being unimpressed by it. I didn't see any reason for Bernadette to leave her family (I get the society things, but your family?) and felt all the characters were pretty boring. Maybe just wasn't resonating with me when I read it, not good timing?


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