Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple

Publication Date: August 2012

Genre: Contemporary, Humor, Mystery


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. (Goodreads)


My rating: 2.25 out of 5 (You can also find me here and see what I’m up to!)

I was quite excited to read this book since it’s being released as a movie this year and I had heard nothing but praise. Well.. this review might be unpopular..

Since this book’s story is told through emails, notes and transcripts, it was kind of difficult to understand what was happening at first. It was not easy to remember all the names and who was who. It’s also labeled as “humour” but.. where? Throughout the whole book I may have grinned once or twice. Granted, maybe Semple’s humour just isn’t for me. But surely it is a “mystery” book? Well, it is. But is it, though?

There were multiple very long, quite boring paragraphs that weren’t important for the story in my opinion. Just explaining or talking about Microsoft or work or the like. Sometimes it was hard to find the motivation to pick this book up and keep reading. What also made it even harder for me personally is that this book does not have chapters. It has parts, the book is split into a few parts but I really like chapters and usually finish chapters before putting a book down. This wasn’t possible with this book and since it seemed like nothing was happening in the story, I kind of forced myself to pick it back up and keep reading. It was pretty difficult, I was more than halfway through the book and the main plot (Bernadette’s disappearance) hadn’t even taken place yet. It just took forever to get to it. Now I may have an explanation for that. (little spoiler) As suggested, the book may be written by Bee about her mother’s disappearance and naturally she would want to include as much detail of what had happened before the disappearance as possible. (end spoiler) However, this made the book much longer than it needed to be, for what it is. And frankly, it made it a bit boring. It just dragged on and on.

The timeline was also pretty confusing. What happened when? Were there time jumps? I mean yes, usually there were dates added to the transcripts or emails but it still wasn’t easy to keep up. Sometimes I lost track of how old Bee is when this or that happened.

And when something finally did happen after I fought my way through most of the book, it was so… ridiculous? It was the only time I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to know how it ends but man, that was stupid. I can’t believe it took them so long to figure out what had happened with Bernadette. And for what? The book is supposed to be a mystery but it’s just contemporary fiction to be honest. Where was the mystery? Oh right, at the very end of the book. What were the first couple hundred pages for then? Definitely not character building because where was the development? They just randomly change how they act throughout the story but I didn’t see any ongoing development. The end just seemed a bit.. lazy? Like ‘let’s just come up with random things that happen and connect them in a random way‘.

As you can see, I’m not this book’s biggest fan. However, I do think this story is better fitted for the screen rather than a book. I really hope the movie comes out great and despite my experience with the book, I’m excited to watch it!

Are you planning on reading it? If you have, what did you think? Or are you watching the movie adaptation? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

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