Welcome to my Where’d you go, Bernadette book review.

I have seen this book everywhere over the last year or so. It felt like everyone was making lists of feel-good books as they were flying off the shelves during lockdown (maybe I’ll work on mine for you one day :)). Every one of those lists I saw had Where’d you go Bernadette on it, but all I ever really got from reading the blurbs was that this is a life-affirming book about a girl’s Mum going missing. Not much to go off really.

Now I’ve seen that it’s been made into a film I knew it was time to finally get around to reading it before someone ruined the end for me (I have learnt since The Sixth Sense). I think I left it so long as I just had no grasp on what it was about so it didn’t really jump out at me. But once I did pick it up, I didn’t put it down. So let me give you some idea of what you can expect.

What’s Where’d you go, Bernadette about?

So, as just mentioned the book is about a young girl whose mother goes missing. Or that’s what everyone else says. This doesn’t actually happen for a while though and for the majority of the book, her mother is around. And thank God, or the girl’s life would be too boring to read about. Bernadette really is the life and soul of the book. It also helps give the book an edge as you know as you’re reading that at some point she disappears. You’re constantly trying to figure out how in this boring world she goes missing and why.

Bernadette’s daughter Bee is a gifted child on the cusp of being sent off to boarding school. Her parents are very well off. To begin with, we see her Dad come and go- a high flying tech genius working one of the top spots at Microsoft with not much time to spare. Her Mum, Bernadette, on the other hand, is almost a recluse, spending her days in their dilapidated house not wanting to make contact with anyone- she even hires an online personal assistant to do everything for her.

Photo by Felipe Ferreira from Pexels

How does it read?

It took me a while to get into this book at first as the format is a number of documents from different characters to each other. I found it a bit difficult to get my head around or to care about the characters. It just felt like reading documents. But past the first 40 pages or so we learn more about each character and start feeling a great wave of empathy for Bernadette who is a free spirit having to deal with other private school parents that drive her mad. In the end, I found that I enjoyed the format as it kept you guessing and things were revealed to you as they were to the characters. They all know different parts of the same story and the book pieces them together.

I’m not sure how the people of Seattle feel about the book being set there as Bernadette spends all her time complaining about how awful the place is. There is also a lot of bashing of Canadian people who Bernadette can’t stand. I could have done without that to be honest as I’m not sure what it really added (maybe it’s American humour we don’t get in the UK?).

Recommend Where’d you go Bernadette?

Even though I found this a bit difficult to get into at first and it had some strange rants by Bernadette about Seattle etc I did enjoy it. I can understand why lots of people put it on their list of books to read during lockdown as it really is a whirlwind. Bernadette is life-affirming as she refuses to live by other people’s standards. I think we could all learn from that a bit.

There’s also an old fashioned tone to Bernadette. The classicly fashionable woman in huge Jackie O sunglasses wandering around suburbia wondering how she ended up there. She books a family trip to Antarctica for the whole family simply because her daughter has asked to go. I mean, it doesn’t get more off the cuff, spontaneously, extravagant than that does it really?

You do get a great sense of freedom when you finish this book like anything is possible. It’s a great lesson in learning who you are and not giving up on that. I can see that this is why it was so popular during lockdown as we were all just lay about dreaming of escaping just as Bernadette does. So I’d definitely recommend you give it a go and see what you take away from it.

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