This book by Maria Semple, is a fictionary novel about an architecht with awkward social skills, a husband that works for Microsoft and a daughter who dreams of going to Antarctica.
Bernadette lives with her husband Elgie, who works for Microsoft, in an old girls school, with their daughter Bee. Bernadette is not really very sociable and prefers to stay away from the other parents from Bees school, especially her neighbour Audrey. The neighbours have an ongoing strife throughout the story, where Bees biggest wish is to go to the Antarctica, and Bernadette would prefer to stay home, whilst her online assistant Manjula, does all her shopping for her. As you can tell from the title, Bernadette mysteriously vanishes at one point, and then the book is mainly her daughter trying to come to terms with her current familysituation.
I just realized, first of all, that I should note that this book is a lot funnier and more humorous than I might’ve led on in the summary. Bernadette and Bee have a distinct mother-daughter relationship, complete with inside jokes and dry humour, and they are actually quite fun to ‘hang out with’, although more often than not it seems unintentional. I actually found the title itself so amusing that, when I brought it with me to Alton Towers in England, I took this photo and posted it on my instagram, and to my excitement, the author, Maria Semple, even left a comment.
It did take me a while to come to terms with the structure of the book at first, since it is made out to be a compilation of letters to, from and about Bernadette and her life. These take the forms of e-mails, written notes, diary entries etc. I really found it difficult to follow in the beginning, like reading in staccatto and only getting a third of the information I needed. But then I fell into the rhythm, and everything started to make sense, like puzzle pieces, with Bee being the main story teller. I grew to like it, but it is a structure that you’d have to ‘get used to’ as you read it.
Like I said previously, I think this book is funny. It’s a light read, with an interesting and not so basic plot, that really entertained me. In the end, I wanted to finish it, but also didn’t want to finish it, because I enjoyed the universe Semple had created for me. I also identified easily with the female characters, which I pressume is a plus.
With that said, even though I liked the book, all it made me think of when I closed it was that I now want to go to Antarctica, but I have been wanting that for a while now. It doesn’t serve a big, fancy cliché of morale, but it tells the story of a family, who is coming to a greater understanding of eachother, as well as personal development on several accounts. I really appreciate this book, and I welcome it to my bookshelf.
I’ll most likely be reading this one again!