If you are anything like me, you’ll hear a book mentioned, make a mental note to read it sometime, and then completely forget about it.
I’m especially bad at doing this whilst listening to books discussed on The High Low podcast.
As such, when my ‘To Be Read’ pile started dwindling during the lockdown, I Googled books that had been featured on the podcast and ordered a few that seemed good at first glance.
And that is how I found Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I really enjoyed The Lost Sister so I thought this story, which followers Bee’s search for her missing mother sounded like a good fit.
The premise is simple: Outside of her husband and child, Bernadette doesn’t have many close contacts within her local community. This is because she has dedicated the last decade and more to raising her daughter Bee, who had health problems as a child.
When Bernadette goes missing Bee is the only one who can really help. Or rather is the only person who seemingly wants to help.
Only I didn’t realise before starting the book that Bee is a teenager.
The book is mainly made up of Bee’s diary entries, along with emails between Bernadette and her assistant and messages sent between other parents at Bee’s school. The mixture of perspectives certainly works well and helps to giver Bernadette’s character more depth. Despite the fact, Bernadette never speaks directly to the reader, the multiple perspectives us a greater insight into her thought process as well as the consequences she doesn’t register.
However, the mixture also means that many of the other characters do not get to develop the same level of depth as Bernadette. As a teenager who has lost her mother, you would expect Bee to have a whole host of intense emotions… yet she seems almost detached. The feelings she expresses in her diary come across somehow flat – if not verging on whiney – given the circumstances.
Though perhaps I am being unfair.
I expected this book to be intense, full of mystery and dark humour. I wanted it to explore mother-daughter relationships and I guess I just wanted this book to be more than what it is.
I don’t want this to come across as negative, because it was an enjoyable read regardless. Just be warned Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Is the type of book best suited to being read around a pool somewhere sunny, rather than a book that will draw you in on a cold, dark evening.
Which is not to say it is boring -the plot is certainly full of unexpected twists. It’s an easy read that will keep you entertained, though it is unlikely to be one that you cannot put down.
If you are looking for a book that will offer a bit of light escapism without consuming you, it will be a perfect read.