Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

P1010197Bernadette Fox is notorious.

To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his talented, volatile, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a legendary architect. But to 15-year-old Bee, she is quite simply Mum.

Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee’s search for her mother reveals an extraordinary woman trying to find her place in an absurd world.

First published: 2012
Publisher: Phoenix

I picked up Where’d You Go, Bernadette at my local bookstore months ago because I was just so curious. The cover, the title, the blurb… It all suggested something fun, something different, and it sparked my interest. I finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago, and it turns out I was right: this book is so much fun!

It started out a bit differently than I had expected. First of all, the structure is not your straighforward narrative: the story is mainly told through emails, letters, articles, etcetera, with only here and there a few paragraphs of traditional narrative. Besides the structure being a bit different, I was also surprised by the place we enter the story. For some reason I thought Bernadette would already have disappeared, or would disappear within the first few pages, which was not the case. I wondered a few times about the beginning of the story — why take this particular point to start? It felt sort of random (though not in a bad way), but later on all of the pieces fell into place.

Like I said, this book was a lot of fun, and I laughed out loud several times. The satirical and very smart humour was just my cup of tea, and the whole idea of this female genius who is slightly mad and misunderstood really spoke to me. It was funny and witty, but also so profound at times. To me, it was just the right combination. For example, we get to read lots of emails from Bernadette, in which she pours her heart out to a virtual stranger. She tells so many hilarious stories, but then there’s also a passage like the following, which brings such a sense of realness to the story:

I can feel the irrationality and anxiety draining my store of energy like a battery-operated racecar grinding away in the corner. This is energy I will need to get through the next day. But I just lie in bed and watch it burn, and with it any hope for a productive tomorrow. There go the dishes, there goes the grocery store, there goes exercise, there goes bringing in the garbage cans. There goes basic human kindness.

While I had some trouble connecting with the story at times (probably because of its structure), passages like these made me love Where’d You Go, Bernadette. That, and the fact that, although the characters have very real and serious problems, there is always a lot of room for absolute hilarity.

3 Liked It

I Won’t Apologise (or: On Reading Choices)

A while ago, Jaclyn from Covered in Flour wrote a great post about reading choices and owning them. She mentioned an infamous article that said that adults who read YA novels should be ashamed of themselves, which prompted her to write a post about all of the reading choices she won’t apologise for. I really loved her post since I think it is ridiculous to be ashamed of your reading choices and preferences. Everyone should read whatever they like, and not feel guilty about it. So, I decided to contribute my own list of things (related to reading) I won’t apologise for.

  • I won’t apologise for reading chick lit. I actually wrote an entire post about this back in December, but I’m still not done talking about it. Chick lit often gets looked down upon by people who write it off as simple, predictable stories that are all one of a kind. It’s often true that these stories are rather predictable, but I don’t care about that. Reading chick lit every once in a while makes me happy, since you’re guaranteerd to find a happily ever after at the end of the book. Knowing that is nice sometimes. Plus, these stories are often very witty and just overall feel good.
  • I won’t apologise for having read and liked Twilight. I remember being 17 and just starting university, and not wanting anyone to find out that I liked Twilight because I was an English major now. How stupid was I? There are a lot of things about these books that are kind of cringeworthy, but I loved them at the time. I raced through all four of those books in no time at all. No clue if I’d still like them today, but as for now I have a nice memory of those books.
  • I won’t apologise for being a slow reader. If I see how fast some (most?) of the book bloggers around here go through their books, I’m astonished. I wish I could read that fast, but I definitely can’t. I’ve only read 23 books this year, which is probably a lot for most people, but most certainly not for most book bloggers. Perhaps it has to do with English not being my first language, but I’m not really sure about that, since my English seems to be better than my Dutch these days. I guess I’m just slow. And that’s okay!
  • I won’t apologise for The Fault in Our Stars being my favourite John Green book. Lately, I almost feel like that is something to explain or apologise for. TFiOS has grown into such a hype, and some reason people are less convinced of something being really good if it’s all hyped up. Which is weird if you think about it, since a hype just means a lot of people like something. I’m the same, though. As soon as everybody raves about something, it isn’t attractive to me anymore. Which is why I sometimes feel weird for saying TFiOS is one of my favourite books. Especially to other readers of John Green’s books, since many seem to prefer his earlier work. (On that note: I won’t apologise for calling it TFiOS, ’cause if John Green uses it, I can use it too).
  • I won’t apologise for wanting my books to look pretty. This both refers to wanting the prettiest cover possible for my books, and wanting them to stay undamaged. I’m a bit more lenient when it comes to slightly cracked spines these days, but that’s it as far as I’m concerned. No dog ears, no writing in books (apart from study books, but that’s very difficult for me as well), and as little damage as possible from carrying them around in bags. Oh, and there are few things that bother me more (reading-wise, that is) than books in a series not all being the same edition. That’s just awful. Those spines have to match up!

That’s my list! I’m sure there are many more things I won’t apologise for, but these are all that came to mind right now. What are some bookish habits or choices you won’t apologise for?

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

P1010196Sara Fitzgerald’s daughter Kate is just two years old when she is diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Reeling with the helpless shock of it, Sara knows she will do anything — whatever it takes — to save her child.

Then the test results come back time and again to show that no one in their family is a match for Kate. If they are to find a donor for the crucial bone marrow transplant she needs, there is only one option: creating another baby, specifically designed to save her sister. For Sara, it seems the ideal solution. Not only does Kate live, but she gets a beautiful new daughter, Anna, too.

Until the moment Anna hands Sara the papers that will rock her whole world. Because, aged thirteen, Anna has decided that she doesn’t want to help Kate live anymore. She is suing her parents for the right to her own body.

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
First published: 2004

Continue reading

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

P1010192Love isn’t an exact science — but no one told Don Tillman. A handsome thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises The Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie — ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ — throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. Just what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?

Publisher: Penguin Books

Year: 2013


Continue reading