Maria Semple's latest novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, is a sharply funny, occasionally exasperating, eventually heartwarming story of self-regarding entitled geniuses, upper-middle-class creatives and the hell they've created called Seattle, and collateral damage. A family farce with a cast of exaggerated yet endearing wealthy characters P. G.Wodehouse might have come up with had he been alive in the Microsoft-era Northwest, Where'd You Go, Bernadette is ostensibly a collection of documents collected by daughter Bee as part of her effort to find her missing mother, Bernadette Fox, a misanthropic agoraphobe who goes AWOL on the eve of a famiy trip to Antarctica.

 

Ranging from ER bills to victim-support-group emails to secret missives, the documents--all invented by Semple, of course--are pitch-perfect, revealing a mastery of tone, register, grammar, and style. Yes, it's a veritable grammar and style school, as the pieces Semple wrote in the voice of Bernadette herself are far different from those of her nemeses, an aspirational busybody private-school mom and a conniving administrative assistant out to steal Bernadette's software-genius husband, Elgie.

 

Certainly, using different voices for different characters is nothing new in fiction. Epistolary novels from Aphra Behn's Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684-87) to Samuel Richardson's 1740 Pamela to Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), created from a collection of fictional documents, have 

0 Kudos
About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.

Advertisement

Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Categories