Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip.

But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces–which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades.



This is why you must love life; one day you’re offering up your social security number to the Russian Mafia; two weeks later you’re using the word calve as a verb.

Bernadette Fox has vanished and I just don’t give a toss. I had high, high hopes for Semple’s novel, but it seems I’ll never learn my lesson of the disappointment one suffers when being lured in by pretty front covers.

It was a serious slog getting through Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Truthfully, I wasn’t prepared for the book’s email/text format so perhaps the lack of enjoyment is my fault for not flicking through before giving it a full go. However, Semple just hits us with the virtual conversation format immediately that I didn’t even have time to process what the hell was going on! Cue me soldiering through the rest of the novel with my eyebrows permanently knitted together in a state of confusion.

‘Oh, but Sam, it’s satire!’ I hear you bemoan, tilting your sunglasses as you stare down at me from behind your martini. Trust me, I know. That doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable satire though, does it?

To put it bluntly, it’s just very vapid. Semple wins an award for creating the most forgettable book I have ever read. I know the character of Bernadette is meant to be over-the-top and neurotic, but it felt so try hard on Semple’s end that it was just purely insufferable.

By page one hundred, I could hardly care less. Admittedly, a few lines here and there made me exhale audibly in amusement, but I didn’t find it as laugh-out-loud as fellow readers have done. It was just far too scattered narrative wise for me to try and invest in it entirely, no matter how hard I forced myself to! It’s basically one big bowl of Seattle stereotypes, corporate company dynamics, prep school helicopter parenting, a trip to Antartica and some good ol’ family dysfunction stirred around by Semple in hopes of delivering this hilarious, satirical caper.

On paper it sounds – at the very least – mildly enjoyable, but it’s just not. The idea of Bernadette and her life sounds thrilling, but the execution is just too muddled. And you’re telling me Cate Blanchett is going to be a film adaptation of this mess? Oh, honey no!

It’s getting one star, but the star is really for myself. It’s an award for getting through this atrocity like a trooper when I probably should’ve DNF’d twenty pages in like I wanted to.



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