Where’d you go, Bernadette Book Review

Where’d you go, Bernadette: Book Review by Tina

5 stars


Where did you go Bernadette Book


Please welcome on board our special guest reviewer Tina!

Tina lives in the UK and works as a business journalist for the medical technology industry. When she is not reporting on the latest gizmos that keep your ticker ticking, Tina ricochets between a multitude of extracurricular activities to combat the bouts of existential crises that increasingly plague her with age. She enjoys reading books that she wishes she could have written instead of guiltily watching series after series of TV shows on Netflix.


Fifteen-year-old Bee Branch requests as a reward for her perfect grades a family trip to Antarctica, much to the chagrin of her agoraphobic mother, Bernadette Fox.

Nonetheless, Bernadette pushes through her misgivings and sets her “virtual assistant” in India, Manjula, to making preparations for the trip.

Then Bernadette vanishes two days before Christmas without leaving a trace – or so everyone thinks. Bee, exasperated by her father’s stonewalling, is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery by piecing together information from a variety of sources.

Myriad emails between Bernadette and Manjula, between neighbours and the parents of Bee’s classmates, letters, school memos, magazine articles, blog posts, school reports, handwritten notes and even the odd police report – all tied together with Bee’s intermittent and articulate narrative – take the reader through the different events that lead to the fateful day of Bernadette’s disappearance.

They also provide tantalizing and often hilarious insight into the small-town petty-mindedness of the Branches’ Seattle neighbors and the unconventional family life of Bee with her parents, as well as reveal the inner world of the often maniacal but never boring and always razor smart Bernadette Fox.


When I read a book, I often try and guess what’s going to happen next or how the story is going to end before I finish. It’s a purely egotistical exercise (hey, I never said I was perfect) because if I guess right, I can delude myself into thinking that I too can dream up clever plots and perhaps one day unleash my genius onto the world with a best-selling novel.

With “Where’d you go, Bernadette?“, I failed big time – which is what made this book such a delight to read. Maria Semple cleverly puts together the different emails, memos, letters etc  to just enlighten the reader enough to keep them engrossed and to advance the plot, without ever giving too much away.

I found myself starting to feel the same urgency Bee felt in her quest to find out exactly what happened to Bernadette, hoping that each new revelation in an ( often very funny) email or memo would lead me closer to solving the mystery.

Moreover, Semple has succeeded in creating comedic characters – one perfect example being the Branches’ blackberry bush-blasting neighbor Audrey – who could have easily been caricatures, but instead have traits that reflect human foibles we can all relate to and thus find ourselves sympathizing with them.

And for those who like closure, I can say the story ending does not disappoint.

The pace of the story is quick but smooth, without ever being choppy nor leaving you confused. Semple’s witty dialogue and the hilarious situations in which some of the story’s characters find themselves is testament to the author’s skill as a writer for off-kilter hit TV comedies like Arrested Development, Mad About You and Ellen.

If you enjoyed Where’d you go, Bernadette Book Review, please buy here.
Or listen to it free with Audible trial.

Check out our Books Reviews.

34 thoughts on “Where’d you go, Bernadette Book Review

  1. First off…Welcome Tina! Looks like you’re going to be a great addition to the team here at Arlene’s Book Club! Congratulations!

    Secondly, what an inspiring review of this book and I must say, the cover of the book alone makes me want to read it! 🙂 I’m glad you mentioned that the ending doesn’t disappoint because I find that all too often in many books….disappointing endings that is….so I greatly appreciate you taking the time to share this info with us!

    If I like it I’ll probably want to know…Where’s a good place to go to find more books from this author?

    All The Best,
    Jeremy David Wilson

    1. Hi Jeremy
      Thanks for your kind comments. If you want to find more books by Maria Semple, the best place would probably Amazon.com . I live in the UK and as she’s not as well known in here as in the U.S., it’s not so easy for me to find her books in a shop.
      The book was actually a gift from a friend in the U.S. and it’s the first of Semple’s works I’ve read. But I love her style so hopefully her other books will be good reads too!
      Take care and happy reading!

  2. Hi Tina,
    what a wonderful review! Thank you so much. The story in this book looks very interesting and I’m tempted to give it a go. I would’ve never find it without you. Thanks for your brilliant review. Great website!

  3. Love this review. It seems like a great read and I think my wife would love a hard copy. I am more of an audio book guy, is there an audio version?


    1. Thanks for your comments, Marko. Hope your wife enjoys reading the book and yes, there is an audio book and it comes in a kindle version of the book Where’d You Go, Bernadette

      I absolutely love audio books, like having someone read you a bedtime story. But the trouble is I DO fall asleep 10 minutes into listening, no matter how hard I try to stay awake, so I never get to the end. Like literary anesthesia! Hope you don’t have the same problem as it’s a great story.

  4. haha that’s great. I always read the last chapter first. That way there is no suspense and I can really get into the ‘why’ of the story. It helps me weave it all together. Great way of doing a book review, really enjoyed your writing. Thanks, Peter

    1. Hi Peter, do your friends say you are a spoilsport for wanting to find out how the story ends first? Well pay no attention to them. So what if we want to know the endings first or take pleasure in outsmarting the authors?! Vive la difference, I say. Stories should be enjoyed in whatever way you want them to! Hope the book gives you as much pleasure as it did me.

  5. Very interesting book review. The whole purpose of a positive book review is to entice readers to purchase the book that is reviewed. If that is achieved, then the review is successful.

    On the other hand, a negative book review is to discourage readers because the reviewer didn’t like the book.

    In this review, clearly the reviewer loved the book, and she has done such a good job that people just want to read this book! Thanks for piquing my interest Tina!

    1. Thanks for your comment, PJ! What I’ve found quite gratifying is that I’ve managed to pique the interest of you and other guys, even though – as I mentioned in an earlier comment – people might mistakenly think this is chick lit because of the artwork/title/the author being female.
      Hope you enjoy the book when you get around to reading it!

  6. This sounds like a very interesting book. I like how you leave a review but also how you follow up with your own recommendation. I might give this book a try. Thank you.

    1. Cheers, Juan. I can’t take credit for the format of the book review – the boss lady Dinh told me to write it like that! But I’m glad you enjoyed it and hope the book won’t disappoint.

  7. This is one great review Tina! It is so easy to read and very informative. I guess writing for your job helps:)
    Looking forward to your future reviews.

    1. Thanks, Rashaad! I’m pleased you liked the review. Actually the sort of writing I do in my day job is a very different style to writing a book review but I did enjoy the task and loved hearing everyone’s comments.
      Do follow @arlenesbookclub if you have a a Twitter account and you can find out more news from the literary world via us!

  8. Thank you for the review. I can sympathize with you Tina in that sometimes Netflix robs me of time I could be doing something more productive(;
    The book sounds fascinating. I especially like a book that is well constructed to keep you engaged throughout so I will write this book down on my list of “to read” books. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for your Netflix confession, Ket! Maybe what might make us feel better is I watched an interview with Celia Aherne – chick lit writer, I don’t read her stuff but she is successful so she must be doing something right. Celia said she watched lots of TV growing up and that helped her better pace her story into readable blocks – so all that TV watching is our training to become best selling novelists! Enjoy the book 🙂

  9. Thanks for such good review. I hate some story that has a typical ending. Will definitely check out this book after my current reading book.

  10. Good review. Just enough information to really capture interest and yet not give anything away. I’m curious as to what age group or groups you feel this book is aimed at.

    1. Hi Jack, I think it could be enjoyed by all adults, although perhaps those who have lived a little bit might appreciate more how Maria Semole pokes fun at some stereotypes in the book.

  11. Sounds like a really interesting read! I haven’t had time to read as much as I used to or would like to. I remember when I was younger I read all of the Harry Potter books that had come out up to that point, which I believe was four. I read all of them in a few weeks, they just blew my mind and I couldn’t put them down. I definitely miss feeling that way about a book and being so excited to keep reading something.

    One thing that caught my eye from the review was that Maria Semple wrote for Arrested Development and I think that show is genius and hilarious. I would definitely check out a book written by her. Not only am I interested by that, but the plot of the movie sounds really interesting. I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting twists and like the review mentioned who doesn’t like good closure at the end of the story. Enjoyed the review!

    1. My exact thoughts, Rigo Soto, when I read Maria Semple’s biog and saw Arrested Development among her credits. I absolutely love that show! The book definitely has that same kooky flavour.

  12. Hello Tina,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your recommendation and review of Where’d you go Bernadette? It seems like a book I would enjoy reading. You put my thoughts into words while reading a predictable ending of the novel I am reading causing me to rush through to the end and moving on to a more enjoyable reading experience.
    I have the utmost respect and appreciation for those authors out there who take us on journeys where we can actually see the places and feel the emotions of the characters in the story.

    Thank you for your recommendation and review. I have put this book on my to read list.

    1. Hi Arlene, thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed my review. I didn’t expect such a wonderful response for my review. I don’t want to put any spoilers in my comments but I’d be happy to have a discussion about the story and share thoughts on what the funniest or most toe-curling moments were. What do you think, Dinh?
      PS Check out Arlene’s Book Club on Twitter @arlenesbookclub for tweets on all things literary!
      Hope you get as much joy out of the book as I did!

  13. Hi Tina,

    What can I say? This is a perfect review of “Where’s you go” and I must say that if anyone is having doubts about buying this book, they should definitely check out this review.

    Thanks for sharing and all the best to you Tina.

  14. Hi guys.

    Thanks very much for reviewing “Where’d you go, Bernadette”. I think that will be be checking this one out! I will also most definitely visiting this site regularly. I love reading and I am always looking for different books so this is a good site for me.

    Many thanks

  15. Hi Tina
    Thanks for reviewing this book, it really sounds great and like something I would love to read. Love reading and very often like you say, it is easy to know how the book is going to end even when only half way through. This takes away a lot of the enjoyment when a book is completely predictable. I’m going to add this to my list of must reads!

    1. Ha! I’m glad I’m not the only one that tries to predict endings, Lynne. Perhaps Arlene’s Book Club should have a discussion over a book whilst we read it, rather then after, and see who can nail the ending? Prize – a wholly deserved sense of smugness. Enjoy “…Bernadette”!

  16. Hello Tina (and Dinh), I love your writing style – so easy going and engaging, and thoroughly enjoyed your review. This book is so far removed from my typical read, but it definitely has me curious! I’m looking to expand my extremely narrow literary focus, and I’ve been reading Dinh’s book reviews to help me compile a list. I will now be adding this book to my ever growing list.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Hindy! I too feel I need to expand the genres of books I read but I wouldn’t beat myself too much if I haven’t read all the works of the ancient world’s greatest philosophers. Reading should be enjoyable afterall.

  17. Thanks for your comment, Jacob. Do read this book if you get a chance. I think because of the cover artwork, the title and the fact it is a female author, many people mistake it for chick-lit but it really isn’t. In any case, I avoid chick-lit like the plague so the books I review will not be in that genre. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.