Home » Books » Book Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette By Maria Semple

Book Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette By Maria Semple

Book Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

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.

Buy Where’d You Go Bernadette: 
Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

If you like the sound of this, you’ll also like:
The Anxiety Solution by Chloe Brotheride
10 Books that Celebrate Diversity
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
10 Books Like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

Find me on: Web | Twitter



  1. Francesca Nelson
    29th July 2016 / 1:02 PM

    oh my goodness I’ve had this book in my amazon wishlist for ages now so I’m so pleased to have found a review!!! I think I’m going to purchase this as soon as I’m do e leaving this comment! I love a good book especially ones that are written differently so I’m really interested in this now!! Thank you! 🙂

  2. mummyandthechunks
    29th July 2016 / 1:35 PM

    I have a huge pile of books I have bought and forgotten about. I will have to go and start one as you can guarantee they are always the ones you really enjoy. I love the sound of this book and might order it for my holiday soon.

  3. 29th July 2016 / 2:08 PM

    I actually quite like the sound of this book and I love the way you said it’s written in such a different way, what with the letters and emails. What makes me want to read it is the fact my mum is called Bernadette xx

  4. Joanna
    29th July 2016 / 2:22 PM

    I’ve not read this but am always on the look for new books to read. This one sounds like my kind of thing and would be ideal to read on holiday.

  5. 29th July 2016 / 3:12 PM

    The book review is very informative. I will have to add it to my reading list.

  6. 29th July 2016 / 5:55 PM

    Since you got so many giggles from it, I’m all the more interested. It does sound quite entertaining!

  7. Cassandra Mayers
    29th July 2016 / 6:53 PM

    Im not a big reader but it sounds great. I like that she is called Bernadette, I have a friend called that, She is also a quirky character.

  8. 29th July 2016 / 9:35 PM

    This looks like a good book, I really like the cover!

  9. Jolina - The Unlikely Baker
    29th July 2016 / 9:57 PM

    Sounds like an interesting book! I tend to go for sci-fi fantasy but your review has intrigued me 🙂

  10. 29th July 2016 / 11:06 PM

    I like the sound of this. The plot sounds intriguing and the unusual format is something I just have to see.

  11. Shannon Ritchie
    30th July 2016 / 1:36 AM

    This looks like a fab book, I must add this to my reading list!

  12. Mai C.
    30th July 2016 / 3:12 AM

    It’s an interesting book, the last time I’ve read something in that format was when I was in Grade 6. I would love to read this one! It sounds exciting!

  13. BuildYourOwnEmpire
    30th July 2016 / 9:59 AM

    Your blog is awesome, I showed it to my book worm friend yesterday. Today I woke up to a message from her ”OMG this blog is so awesome thank you so much for sharing it”

  14. 30th July 2016 / 10:57 AM

    I had never heard of this author before, so thank you for sharing, I might check it out!


  15. fashion-mommy
    30th July 2016 / 11:44 AM

    Sounds so good, in the summer I read so much more and am always on the look out for a goof read.

  16. Hannah Heartss ❄️⛄️
    30th July 2016 / 12:18 PM

    This sounds like something I would like to I will have to check it out x

  17. 30th July 2016 / 12:26 PM

    Mixture of emails and letters? That sounds fantastic. Would love to read this.

  18. 30th July 2016 / 2:56 PM

    I like the idea of the format being unusual with the letters and emails. I love books like that x

  19. Karla Pitzen
    30th July 2016 / 3:01 PM

    I’m betting the author had to put a lot of care in making all of those pieces work together! It sounds like a great read that would probably be hard to put down.

  20. kerrblogs
    30th July 2016 / 8:05 PM

    If i can find the audiobook in my library im down.You should read Everything I Never Told You
    Novel by Celeste Ng i think youd like it

  21. kathryn Maher
    30th July 2016 / 11:25 PM

    Like the sound of this character Bernadette. She sounds a little quirky and funny without meaning too but I love that she is capable too and is a successful wife mother and has a good career

  22. Melanie Edjourian
    30th July 2016 / 11:31 PM

    This sounds like a great holiday read and one that would be hard to put down x

  23. Ami Elizabeth
    31st July 2016 / 8:14 AM

    Ooo I head off on holiday next week so I might see if I can pick this up to read by the pool!

  24. Ratisha Goyal
    31st July 2016 / 8:17 AM

    Sounds interesting. Definitely going to grab my copy to read the entire story. Thank you for sharing.

  25. lexhan
    31st July 2016 / 10:05 AM

    Great review by all standards.. hopefully the bookm lives up to its billing.

  26. 31st July 2016 / 12:44 PM

    I have an anxiety disorder myself so I am interested to explore her character and how it measures up. Sounds like a good read.

  27. Dunja
    31st July 2016 / 6:38 PM

    Sounds interesting! I will definitely add it to my to-read list 🙂

  28. Laura
    1st August 2016 / 1:03 AM

    Aw this sounds like a great read. I love that its quirky and a little different! xxx

  29. Anmol Singhi
    1st August 2016 / 4:37 AM

    I am not familiar with this book but after reading your review i will surely read this book.
    Thanks for sharing.

  30. 1st August 2016 / 5:22 AM

    This sound like a really good book with an interesting format – a perfect summer holiday read!

  31. 2nd August 2016 / 6:05 PM

    Found you via IG Fab group. Love books too. This is on my list. Can’t wait to read it now. 🙂

    ∞ © tanvii.com ∞

  32. 2nd August 2016 / 8:59 PM

    What an interesting read, sounds interesting and definitely pickled my interest. Adding it to my list of books to read this summer

  33. suchi
    3rd August 2016 / 4:34 PM

    I am adding this book to my reading list… sounds like a good read!

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