Where’d You Go Bernadette is a story that made waves when it first came out, so of course I bought it immediately and then put it on a shelf to be forgotten about. The story seemed fairly interesting to me and was certainly nothing like anything I’d ever read before but it didn’t appeal enough to be read until now. I was in the mood for something a little different so I plucked this book back off the shelf and now that I’ve read it, I seriously regret not getting to it sooner.
It’s the story of Bernadette Fox, a notorious architect who has been out of the game for over a decade. She’s the mother to Bee (real name: Balakrishna) and wife of Microsoft whiz, Elgie Branch, and they live in the town of Seattle. At the beginning of the story, Bee cashes in on a promise made by her parents to give her whatever she wanted as a reward for her outstanding performance at school. She has but one wish – to take a trip to Antarctica with her family.
Both parents agree but Bernadette is less than enthralled on the inside. Being stuck on a boat with a bunch of strangers is her personal idea of hell, but for her daughter, she would do anything. But then Bernadette goes missing. Without explanation and completely untraceable. Bee then sets off on a mission to find her mother. NB. Bernadette doesn’t actually go missing until around half way through the novel so this is mostly the story of the events leading up to her disappearance and then the quest to find her.
It’s been a while since I read a book that has made me chuckle continuously throughout the book (usually whilst in public places). Semple pokes fun at private school parents, life in Seattle and life in general. This book was much more humorous that I thought it would be and it made for a really uplifting and positive story. There are some twists and turns along the way, not just in the story of Bernadette’s disappearance but also some subplots, which keeps this story exciting and you’re never sure what crazy event is going to happen next.
This book is written in one of the most interesting and unexpected formats I’ve ever seen. It’s a mixture of letters and emails between various different characters, as well as the personal account of Bee. It’s a bit all over the place and it shouldn’t work, it just shouldn’t – but somehow it does. It may sound like one of the most unorganised way to structure a story but I wasn’t confused for a second. Each little snippet follows on from the last and it makes it very easy for you to piece the wider story together in your head.
One thing that I really loved about this book, was the absolute spot-on description of someone with an anxiety disorder. Bernadette is a little cooky, it’s partly her nature as a creative genius, and partly the fact that she suffers from anxiety. Whilst not all people with an anxiety disorder will resort to hiring a virtual assistant in Delhi to avoid interacting with people, it’s certainly something I can imagine a lot of people wishing they could do. Her problems are not treated as insignificant and they are certainly not something to be ignored. Bernadette obviously needs professional help, but she is still a fantastic mother, wife and architect, it’s just that her brain is wired a little differently.
All in all, Where’d You Go Bernadette is a quirky novel that is sure to be loved by all. It is fresh and funny, offering a satire on the lives of private school mums, an account of someone with an anxiety disorder, and a heartwarming family tale. This book is completely ridiculous and yet it also makes complete sense. This would make for a great summer read, full of excitement, intrigue and humour.