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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Family Drama   All Shortlists and Winners   Debuts of the Month   Literary Fiction   Reading Groups   Relationship Stories   
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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

One of our Books of the Year 2013.

Winner of The Melissa Nathan Award For Comedy Fiction About Life and Love 2013.

I don’t like books written in emails, journals, notes etc and had not realised this was, just as I hadn’t realised Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was! This has the same feel, same contagious look, same wacky scenario (well not quite), same relentless pull. From page one I was smitten, my dislike for emails forgotten. It is the mother/daughter relationship which is so brilliant, that and the character of Bernadette – a prize-winning architect who doesn’t realise that what she needs in life is a new project. Clever, witty and hugely satisfying.

July 2013 Debut of the Month.

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013.

The Lovereading view...

The Curious Incident meets A Visit from the Goon Squad meets The Simpsons - this is a wildly imaginative, laugh-out-loud but also very poignant novel that will generate huge word-of-mouth buzz...

A "Piece of Passion" from the Arzu Tahsin, Deputy Publishing Director, Weidenfeld and Nicolson Fiction...

'It’s the sort of novel that you can’t wait to finish and then feel bereft when you have. It is also an extremely satisfying novel to give to friends and family while you can guarantee they’ll love it too. I don’t think I’ve read anything as irresistibly funny or deeply poignant for a very long time. Bernadette is a wonderful character and there is something of her in us all which is why I found her so compelling. She puts her family under a lot of pressure, but there is something about Bernadette that keeps them on her side. She is a delightful conundrum, and her daughter Bee adores her unconditionally. So, when Bernadette disappears and her husband appears to have reached the limits of his compassion, it is left to Bee to try and find her. And then the novel plunges into a journey to the wild seas and devastating chills of Antarctica. But redemption is a very distant location and almost a hard to navigate as Antarctica itself.

I can promise that it is almost impossible to put this book down.'

If you like Maria Semple you might also like to read books by Paul Torday, Maggie Shipstead and Emma Jane Unsworth.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Rhonda Lomazow - 'I loved loved loved this book...a truly unforgettable book, crammed with with layer upon layer of originality. Run and buy this book now, and you’ll be off on a fantastic adventure!'  click here to read the full review.
  • Lynn Brown - 'I feel like I have been on a roller coaster of a ride with this book.  Some parts had me laughing out loud, others nearly in tears.'  click here to read the full review.
  • Bladwin Ho - 'Where D'you Go Bernadette - It's sassy, it's sharp, it's satirical. It is one of the best books out there at the moment.' click here to read the full review.
  • Amanda Donovan - 'Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is fresh, quirky and impossible to put down.  I was hooked from the first page.  I highly recommend this creative masterpiece.' click here to read the full review.
  • Clare Topping - 'It is fast paced, and has some witty observations of modern life - I definitely warmed to Bernadette and her cynical / sarcastic sense of humour as well as the very likeable Bee.'   click here to read the full review.
  • Rebecca Jayne Barrett -'It made me laugh, smile, and then laugh some more. Maria Semple has definitely written one of the most entertaining books you’ll read all year...' click here to read the full review.
  • Reba Khatun - 'Where’d you go, Bernadette? is a cleverly crafted mystery that was an absolute delight to read...I’d give it 5 out of 5 stars.' click here to read the full review.
  • Peter Land - 'Don’t let the cover of this book put you off. This is not ‘chick lit’ but a funny and incisive story, told with skill and a sure touch.' click here to read the full review. 
  • Louise Graham - 'The story explores the troubles of Bernadette and the effect that she has on her family , especially her daughter Bee. The problem I think I had with it is that I wasn’t gripped. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, I just think I hoped for a little more, which I sadly can’t quite put my finger on what I wanted.' click here to read the full review.
  • Catherine Jenkins - 'Pop art in print, it is as colourful and intriguing as a David Hockney painting and has the makings of a cult classic.' click here to read the full review.
  • Sarah Davis -'Touching, absorbing and at times very funny this is a delightful read that will appeal to readers looking for something just that bit different and quirky. I particularly enjoyed the section in Antarctica that had me literally laughing out loud.' click here to read the full review.
  • Nicola Foster - 'Overall, this was a promising debut - a coming of age story that opened well and was ripe with black humour, dysfunctional families and witticisms, but also one that unfortunately fell a bit flat at the final hurdle.' click here to read the full review.
  • Pearl Wilson - 'Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple is a book which I highly really is a very addictive read which I could not put down.  This is one book which should be in every suitcase going on holiday this year.' click here to read the full review.
  • Galina Varese - 'The book endorsements promise a lot. I had to re-read them after I finished the novel, and asked myself: Have we been reading the same book?... I'm not going to push you in any direction. You might even like it. There is a demand for every kind of literature...Sadly, this novel didn't live up to its hype.' - click here to read the full review.

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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she's his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she's a menace. To design experts, she's a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum. Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her. WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's place in the world.


'A fresh, flamboyantly witty new voice'
Helen Fielding

'A delightfully funny book, that constantly catches one by surprise, Where'd You Go, Bernadette combines a shrewdly observed portrait of Seattle life with, of all things, a mysterious disappearance in Antarctica. A pleasure'
Matthew Kneale, author of English Passengers

'Where'd You Go, Bernadette is fresh and funny and accomplished, but the best thing about it was that I never had any idea what was going to happen next. It was a wild ride...'
Kate Atkinson

'Maria Semple dissects the gory complexities of familial dysfunction with a deft and tender hand. Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a triumph of social observation and black comedy by a skillful chronicler of moneyed malaise.'
Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

'Bernadette is unconventional, slightly eccentric and very out spoken, which ensures for hilarious results as she lives in a typical American community. This book is a fine and very funny example of how conventional and socially conditioned people are and what can happen when one person refuses to obey society's rules. A witty, engaging and enjoyable read.'

Suz & Jaydee (Book-shelf)

About the Author

Maria Semple

Maria Semple worked as a television writer in Los Angeles for fifteen years, working on hit shows including Ellen, Saturday Night Live, Mad About You and Arrested Development. Her first novel, This One is Mine, was described as 'shocking, memorable, scathing, funny, delightful, hilarious and exquisite'. She lives in Seattle.

Author photo © Elke Van de Velde

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Book Info

Publication date

4th July 2013


Maria Semple

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Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) an imprint of Orion Publishing Co


352 pages


Family Drama
All Shortlists and Winners
Debuts of the Month
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
Relationship Stories

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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