Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Review-Where'd you go Bernadette

Epistolary Novel: "a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived through Latin from the Greek word ?πιστολ? epistol?, meaning a letter (see epistle).

The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story, because it mimics the workings of real life. It is thus able to demonstrate differing points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator."  (From Wikipedia)
I enjoy reading novels that have unusual forms, one of which is the Epistolary Novel.  One that has been getting a lot of attention lately is Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

The novel is told by Bernadette's daughter, Bee, who has collected letters, emails, and other documents in an effort to find out where her mother went when she disappeared.  Most of the book chronicles the weeks before the disappearence, so we get an idea of what was going on with Bernadette and her family.  We learn that Bernadette was an amazing architect in California before her husband got a job with Microsoft.  They decided to move to Seattle, where Bernadette suffered a number of  miscarriages before giving birth to Bee, who had a heart defect.  Bernadette gave up her career and has had trouble fitting in to Seattle's social scene.  A planned trip to Antarctica creates enough angst that everything comes to a head.  Bee's narration of the events is quite comical, and Bernadette has a sharp sense of humor, so the book is quite funny.   It is a great story about fitting in, family dynamics, and cliques.