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Come and chat to Maria Semple, author of the Women's Prize for Fiction-shortlisted WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, Tues 24 Sept, 9-10pm

(111 Posts)
TillyBookClub Mon 29-Jul-13 16:51:22

Our September Book of the Month is wonderfully eccentric, both for the way it is written (a jigsaw of emails, letters, official documents, police reports, and many other sources) and for the heroine, whose take on the world is highly unusual.

Shortlisted for the 2013 Women's Fiction Prize, WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a suspense story, as clever teenager Bee tries to track down her missing mother, the notorious Bernadette. Bernadette's dry humour and unorthodox methods create drama wherever she goes, as does her unconcern about being disliked.

The novel's wit and refreshing comedy (the author is regular writer for Saturday Night Live and other hit US shows) make it a perfect piece of intelligent escapism. As Jonathan Franzen put it, 'I tore through this book with heedless pleasure'. A caustic satire on modern life, parenting, social interaction and the American Dream.

Orion have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters - to claim yours please go to the book of the month page. We'll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We are thrilled that Maria will be joining us and answering questions about WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, her writing career and her creative inspiration on Tuesday 24 September. So please feel free to discuss the book throughout the month, pop up any advance questions and we will see you all here, Tue 24 September, 9-10pm.

DuchessofMalfi Sun 25-Aug-13 21:10:29

It arrived etc...

grassroots Tue 27-Aug-13 11:41:20

Thank you very much for my free copy!

This was completely different from anything I would normally have chosen, and I loved it. Would normally have been put off by this style of narrative - but this reeled me in. I don't know if the ending was cliched or not - but am never one to turn away from a good cliche! Was so enjoying it I had to send the DS out to play so I could finish it...

iloveeverton Tue 27-Aug-13 12:36:37

I've just finished this book, loved it especially the writing style. I've been googling Antarctica expeditions since.

cindy21 Wed 28-Aug-13 20:06:31

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DuchessofMalfi Wed 28-Aug-13 20:59:36

I've just finished reading it this evening. I liked it very much, but one tiny little thing has been bothering me. Why is there no question mark in the title, after Bernadette? It is a question grin

I'll come back with my serious question for Maria Semple shortly smile

DuchessofMalfi Thu 29-Aug-13 08:36:27

My question for Maria Semple relates to the style of the novel. Did you decide on the epistolary form from the outset? And why?

I admit to finding it a little confusing to begin with and struggled to get to grips with all the different voices, but it all started to come together but, when it did, I liked it very much.

Trying not to plot spoil, but I liked Bee's narrative linking the emails etc and how there was a reason for that, which became clear towards the end. Bee was definitely my favourite character.

All in all, a very enjoyable novel. Thank you MN for my copy. Looking forward to the discussion on 24th.

anotetofollowso Thu 29-Aug-13 08:57:11

Yeeees, it is a fun book and a good read. But - in true American style - this one wrapped itself up all to neatly at the end. The biting edge turned a bit too sweet and sit-com for my tastes.

But a good holiday read

DuchessofMalfi Thu 29-Aug-13 14:38:48

Just discovered it's currently £1.99 on Amazon kindle smile

Roseanna05 Thu 29-Aug-13 19:24:15

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Palestine Sat 31-Aug-13 11:23:35

Does anyone have any suggestions, for recent fiction, that eschews the data/info overload of current urban existence for a simpler, pastoral past?
By recent I mean, this century.

borninastorm Thu 05-Sep-13 10:58:59

Thank you for the book.

When I first got it the cover and blurb put me off it and tbh I wasn't looking forward to reading it, but as I had to read and review I opened it and got on with it.

I finished it 2 days (in between looking after a toddler and a teen in the school holidays).

The old adage, don't judge a book by its cover was true for me: I loved this book.

I loved the characters, the way it was set out, the use of emails, the questions it raised about society and I loved that the author used several unreliable narrators to tell the story.

I've already recommended this book to several people and I'll also are recommend it to my book club.

TillyBookClub Thu 05-Sep-13 11:14:47

I'm feeling a bit Bernadette-esque at the school gates this week...

Thanks to all for their messages so far, and do keep the questions coming - we'll send them to Maria in the next week or so and then looking forward to having her here live on Tues 24th, 9-10pm. Hope you can all join us.

Uzma01 Fri 06-Sep-13 13:46:30

I didn't know I was picked to receive the book so it was a nice surprise to get it in the post.

It took a bit of time to get round to reading it and then when I finally did - I felt it was a tad awkward given the mix of narrations from different characters. Once that was overcome, I actually enjoyed it and wanted to find out what happened to Bernadette!

In terms of my question for Maria - I wanted to know if she based Bernadette's character on anyone from real life? The range of emotions - the passion, the sarcasm and the hilarious behaviour - are quite endearing.

Thanks for the opportunity to read and review it.

Gargamella Sun 08-Sep-13 00:08:42

What fun (as Miranda's mum would say). Really enjoyed this.

So, Maria, if you feel you can answer this without getting into too much bother, how many real life gnats did you draw inspiration from to come up with the Galer crew? Was that some form of therapy to get you through school gate sessions? After the summer break, I need to re-learn a bit of tolerance but unfortunately I'm now thinking that if Bernadette got away with her stance then maybe not....

Hullygully Tue 10-Sep-13 10:48:44

Read this over the summer - thought it was great. I would put it on the shelf next to This Book Will Save Your Life and similar.

Campaspe Tue 10-Sep-13 16:57:36

Thank you for the free book - I hardly ever win competitions, and had forgotten I had applied, so I was thrilled when this came through the post. I liked the style of the book, and the emails that gave insight into how the different characters were feeling. I think I'd have to echo Anotetofollow's comments above that the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the book.

ktlq Tue 10-Sep-13 21:39:08

I got such a kick when I saw my copy of Where'd You Go Bernadette on the doormat - thanks so much!

I thought Bernadette totally embodied the identity crisis which mums can face upon having a baby - the whole work v home life split. The idea that becoming a mum will stunt your career & bring your creativity to a halt really resonated with me unfortunately! I like the way this is resolved however as it gives hope to those still in early years of parenthood...!

I particularly liked the school gate clashes, the Antartica scenes and the cruise ship, yet it felt the last part of the book had even more to offer. Email/epistolry text is hard to digest but something different and actually enjoyable once you get into it. Maria Semple quotes English Passengers as a favourite novel for this and she's right, it's a marvellous book and laugh-out-loud from what I remember. Look forward to the book discussion online!

Thanks again :-))

ktlq Tue 10-Sep-13 21:49:54

My question for Maria: Like Bernadette, did you feel challenged creatively when you became a mother or did you find it easy to switch from work to being mum?
Also, how did the inspiration for the lead character's name come about? Have you visited Lourdes? Many thanks :-)

DuchessofMalfi Wed 11-Sep-13 08:08:39

That's very interesting hully. That was exactly the same book I was thinking of when I read Bernadette too. There's something about this one that reminded me of it.

tandt5 Wed 11-Sep-13 11:12:41

Thank you so much for sending me this book. I took it with me on holiday and I just couldn't put it down.
Really enjoyed how unusual the story was told, how you get to know the characters through different angles from different ways we communicate nowadays. It is so fresh and modern and beautifully written, I would definitely re-read it and recommend it to my friends and at my book club. There are so many things I can relate to and it was so interesting to see how the story would pan out.
The title Where did you go Bernadette can easily have my name in it or many mums out there whose lives have changed dramatically since having kids and are juggling so many things while putting their own needs and desires last (and of course everyone knows pushy Galer parents - how true).
My favourite quote There's no way one person can ever know everything about another person. It doesn't mean you can't try...

TillyBookClub Wed 11-Sep-13 20:05:51

Hully/Duchess - strange twist of fate is that we have the excellent AM Homes joining us in November, to talk about all her books including This Book Will Save Your Life and the latest one (May We Be Forgiven) which will be our November BOTM...

Great that so many people enjoyed this and keep the questions coming.

Hullygully Thu 12-Sep-13 08:19:16

Oh marv. I have read all Homes' books. But I won't talk about them now...

I can't think of a question for Maria at the mo, but I do want to say how much I liked it and thought it beautifully constructed and the characters v good indeed.

DuchessofMalfi Thu 12-Sep-13 17:52:20

That's interesting. I shall try and join in the November discussion too smile

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 13-Sep-13 10:13:47

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Hullygully Fri 13-Sep-13 10:41:28

I love the dad. And the mum. And I love their relationship. I want to be their friend and go to Alaska with them.

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