Monday, January 14, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? (by Maria Semple)

So I am (informally, because god knows I don't need another reading project) trying to read some of the 2013 Tournament of Books books. Several of them were on my to-read list anyway, because I've been hearing a lot about them.

This is a fun, quirky satire of Seattle's privileged class by one of the writers of Arrested Development. It's actually probably a spoiler to call it fun, since it wouldn't be so fun if Bernadette turned out to be dead, for example. It's somewhat epistolary, in that it's made up of a variety of letters, emails, memos, and whatnot, with some connective material supplied by our quasi-narrator, Bernadette's daughter Bee.

The characters are very well drawn, though I think there are some character shifts towards the end that feel a little implausible. For instance, evil Audrey Griffin's sudden change of heart about everything, or even Bernadette herself. I loved the emails between Bernadette and her virtual personal assistant. I loved all the Portlandia-esque loving satire of Seattle itself, especially in terms of the politics at Galer Street School. I found Bee very sympathetic. Overall this is a fast, fun read that I would recommend.

As a side note, this is the third of the Tournament of Books novels (along with Beautiful Ruins and Gone Girl) that I've found to be more fast and breezy, rather than hefty and "literary." Maybe it's just by comparison with The Recognitions, which is my other current book and is doorstopily, densely literary. This is not to dismiss their merit, because I think they're all good books, but just an observation.


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