Where’d You Go, Bernadette

12611253Ah Bernadette!  You have got to love her in spite of all of her faults.  She’s witty, intelligent, and an immensely creative architect.  Unfortunately, something has happened to her, making her anti-social and borderline argoraphobic.  This is a novel that explores what can go wrong with someone and how that person is perceived by others.  It also speaks of personal limits.  The reader can’t help but love Bernadette Fox because her rants are sometimes the ones we want to do ourselves, but prefer to do it in our heads.  Not doing her job as an architect for a long while, she tries to cope with being stuck at home because she hates going out, while trying to raise her intelligent precocious daughter Bee.  Meanwhile her husband, Elgin, is a big computer guru working for the omnipresent Microsoft or MS as the people call it in the book. He is the reason they have moved to Seattle.

The book is an amazing introspection on what is wrong in American society.  Maria Semple has found an ingenious way of critiquing that through the usage of the different types of correspondence used to tell the story of what happens to Bernadette.  The most original aspect of this book is that it is told from multiple perspectives, using letters, emails, faxes, doctors reports, and interviews.  Some may argue that it isn’t literary enough because of that but I disagree.  What better way to critique society while using one of its devil evils, emailing, etc.  It’s clear that Semple has taken a lot of care into weaving the story.  There are many issues that are developed such as husband/wife relationships, mother/daughter relationships, being wealthy, creating, socializing, integrating into a community, etc.  What I love the most is that it got me to laugh out loud quite a few times.  It is an entertaining and gratifying read.  It really made me wonder how I would react to some of the things that happened to Bernadette.  At one moment, there is a reference to a novel with a famous architect in it and Bernadette’s creativity rivals his ingenuity.  The only thing is Bernadette is human and that fragility is what makes the reader empathise with her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is not Maria Semple’s first novel.  It was The One is Mine.  It is the story of a profoundly unhappy woman named Violet Parry, who is living a luxurious life with her husband David and her toddler Dot.  It’s not until she meets Teddy that things seem to be very different for her.  Semple wrote on various popular television series where she’s proved she knows how to tell a story.  She is credited for having worked on shows such as Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan Mad About You, 90210, and Ellen.  Writing might be in her blood as they say since her father Lorenzo Semple, Jr. worked on the television series of Batman.  Maria Semple lives in Seattle with her husband and her daughter Poppy.  Check out the link below where Semple talks about how she went about writing Where’d You Go, Bernadette and mentions a few excellent pointers for debutant writers.

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Genre:  Adult Fiction/Humor/Contemporary

Published:  August 2012

Edition:  Little, Brown and Company

Pages:  320

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * *

My favorite quote:  ”I was downtown early one morning and I noticed the streets were full of people pulling wheelie suitcases.  And I thought, Wow here’s city full of go-getters.  Then I realized, no, these are all homeless bums who have spent the night in doorways and are packing up before they get kicked out.  Seattle is the only city where you step in shit and you pray, please God, let this be dog shit.” (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, p. 124)

+4,223

The Best Books of 2013

Well now that we’ve started 2014 and I’ve had the time to really reflect on my reading experience of 2013, I feel that it was pretty darn mediocre.  I’d hoped to read more books that would wow me but that wasn’t the case.  It was if I chose my books because they just fell in my lap.  That’s not how I want to proceed with my book choices this year.  You’ve already seen a select few of the big books I plan on reading this year, but just know that there will be more engaging and thought-provoking titles added to that list.

My reading goals of 2013 comprised:

1. reading more works of people of color

2. reading more classics

3. reading graphic novels

4. reading out of my comfort zone

I guess two out of four ain’t bad.  I managed to do one and three, but only really read one book that was a little out of my comfort zone.  So I know now what I need to concentrate on this year.  I’d like to have a well-rounded reading year but most of all I want to read more books that really speak to me, move me.  2014 is the year of quality! I hope.

So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at my top ten best books of 2013:

Firstly we have the books by authors of colour or about people of color:

IMG_1614

6093113623785

Well as you can see that’s half of my favourites list.  All I can say is these five books really stuck with me and enlightened my reading experience as well as taught me some things.  I was taken aback by the passages in Black Like Me.  The descriptions written by John Howard Griffin, a white man who was just being a black man for a few months struck me to my core.                                   If Beale 

4260338463

Street Could Talk weighed on me heavily as well reading about the injustices of the seventies, while in the back of my mind knowing these situations are still happening today.  Cutting for Stone was that epic African novel that surprised me at every page.  I really couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next or where the author was leading me.  I felt like I’d traveled stretches of kilometres to Africa to  meet and follow Marion and Shiva from their beginnings to adulthood.  That was a rich and informative reading experience that taught me a lot about Ethiopia, a country that I almost visited over sixteen years ago.  Kindred took me back to the days of slavery, filling me with fear and disorienting me in a world where the codes didn’t correspond to me or Dana the main character.  Lastly, but not least The Cutting Season brought me back to my home state of Louisiana. The story brought out anticipation and fear of the unknown – who killed that young woman on the plantation grounds called Belle Vie?  I could feel the heat, the humidity, and smell the earth.  Darkness engulfed me and Caren the main character.  Running through it for fear of what she might find or worse what or who might be waiting for her.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman was the only classic I read last year.  That is if you don’t count Harry Potter and the Philosopher’ Stone and If Beale Street Could Talk.  Those two could technically be considered modern classics.  Ok enough of me trying to stretch my non-existent list of read classics.  In spite of it all,  I can thank my 56034book club for choosing this one.  For without them, I’m not really sure when I would have read it, in spite of it being on my physical and mental TBR for aeons.  I could also place this one under number four of my reading goals because it definitely got me out of my comfort zone.  In the beginning I didn’t think I’d make it through, but at the halfway mark something changed.  I became more invested in the story, not to mention that the writing style changed for the better.  I also started to get used to those omniscient footnotes that lead me through the story that was going on above like a dog on a leash.  Undeterred by it all I finished and loved it!  Now that doesn’t often happen to me.  I usually give up if I can’t get into a book by page 150.  It was a worthwhile reading experience and I persevered to the end!  So I definitely have to read more classics this year.

1261125351GiFItYmkLThe next two novels were my comic relief of the year.  I don’t often pick up comical books and that’s probably because it’s not a genre that I’m really familiar with.  I was compelled to pick up Where’d You Go Bernadette  since everybody was talking about it in the blogosphere and about its unorthodox style of being written in email and letter form.  I like epistolary so I thought why not.  It turned out to be a great choice.  I read it in one afternoon and laughed out loud a bit.  Oh Bernadette! She was a mess!  I liked her though.  Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff Christ’s Childhood Pal was the same.  It took me longer to read but boy did I have some laughs.  The wittiness of that novel is just simply brilliant!  It’s a must read if you haven’t gotten to it yet.

Now you know I’m not that over the moon about Young Adult novels and any time I read one it’s so that I can41WvR8-CBUL suggest it to the students I tutor in English or to my daughters, and of course because I suspect it might be good.  I ran across Speak because I saw a couple of bloggers talking about it.  I read it in one sitting and fell in love with the way the story was told but most of all with Melinda’s voice.  Superb!  A reader couldn’t ask for a better narrator, especially a young adult reader.

12280827Last but not least, my absolute favourite and best read of 2013 was The Sense of an Ending.  What a fantastic way to talk about memory!  I got so much from this little tiny 150-page book.  Unbelievable! There are so many themes packed into this book.  I was asking myself what took me so long to pick up a novel by Julian Barnes.  Nevertheless, I finally did and it was also thanks to my book club.  Book clubs can bring out the best and sometimes the worst in one’s reading however in my experience it’s been great at 100%.  Check out this wonderfully woven story of middle-aged Tony after school, marriage, children, and divorce.  Memory can be deceiving after the fact and at times spot on…

Well that’s my wrap up of my top ten books of 2013.  I hope you enjoyed reviewing some of them with me.  Clicking the titles will take you to the reviews.  So how about you guys?  Was your reading year a 3.0-3.5 like mine or better?  Let me know below and don’t forget to include your favourite books of the year.  I love getting recommendations from you!  Happy reading y’all!

The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 Shortlist

1579084251eP+WiFpiL12611253 So here they are.  The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced today at the London Book Fair.  The longlist was competitive and somewhat diversified, but the shortlist competition is even stiffer.  I was happily surprised to see that Where’d You Go, Bernadette made it to the shortlist, after having read so much about it not being serious enough to be nominated or win a literary prize because of its modern epistolary form.  If you read    135378911606173413507212my review you know I loved it and found it refreshing and well-balanced.  I haven’t read the others but they have all been moved up to the top of my TBR for 2013.  The only real disappointment with the longlist is that it didn’t contain more women writers of colour.  Although I was thrilled to see Zadie Smith’s NW on the shortlist.  I enjoy her “keep it real” writing.  I’m anxious to read this one since the reviews have been mixed.  I’m expecting NW to pull me completely out of my comfort zone.  I probably won’t get to Bring Up the Bodies this year since I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Wolf Hall.  It looks as if Mantel, Smith, and Kingsolver are the top contenders – Hilary Mantel for winning the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012,  Zadie Smith winning the Orange Prize in 2006 for On Beauty, and Barbara Kingsolver winning the Orange Prize in 2010 for The Lacuna.  I imagine people are wondering why the Women’s Prize even exists since it doesn’t seem to be a necessity with all the other literary prizes out there that seem to be dominated by women.  In my opinion, women’s literary work is still by large ignored and not valued enough.  The Women’s Prize will continue to aid in spotlighting some of the best women’s literary work available as well as discovering new writers.  Good luck to all those that made the shortlist and may the best woman win.  So, what do you think of this shortlist?  Are you interested in reading any of them, if so which ones?  Check out the video below of the judges talking about the books on the shortlist. The judges are Miranda Richardson, (Chair), Actor, Razia Iqbal, BBC Broadcaster and Journalist, Rachel Johnson, Author, Editor and Journalist, JoJo Moyes, Author, and Natasha Walter, Feminist Writer and Human Rights Activist.  Ah, you can feel the suspense.  Happy reading….