Living the life dramatic in Seattle

the book:

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

published 2012  

[Audrey is describing an encounter with another Mom from school]

Naturally, I wanted to have a friendly chat with Bernadette. So I walked up to her car while she was in the pickup line. Mea culpa! But how else are you ever going to get a word with that woman? She’s like Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You see her only from the waist up, driving past. I don’t think she has once gotten out of her car to walk Bee into school.

I tried talking to her, but her windows were rolled up and she pretended not to see me. You’d think she was the first lady of France, with her silk scarf flung just so and huge dark glasses. I knocked on her windshield, but she drove off.

Over my foot!

observations: Can’t say too much about the plot of this book, as one of the fine things about reading it is that you have absolutely no idea what direction it is going in, not a clue what will happen next, or even, really, what genre of book it falls into. But we can say this: The first two-thirds of the book is composed largely of emails, reports, letters and other documents, explaining the complex dealings among a set of families living in (and sending their children to school in) a nice part of Seattle, leading eventually to the mysterious disappearance of Bernadette. The final third details the attempts of her young daughter, Bee, to find her.

The school, work and home descriptions are absolutely hilarious, a fine comic achievement. Anyone who knows Seattle and Microsoft will find it particularly telling, but that’s not essential – it’s hard to imagine who would not find the descriptions and writing very funny. It has to be said that the last part of the book is less satisfying, and a bit more YA. (What is with these narratives written by winsome over-clever teenagers, with whom you wouldn’t want to spend any time in real life?) But well worth it for the comic setpieces earlier.

Links up with: Jonathan Raban’s
Waxwings is a very different book, but also a great description of living in Seattle.

The picture is not the first lady of France, and comes, like this blog entry and this one, from Perry Photography: you can see more of her work at Flickr.


  1. Moira, your connections with Seattle are still strong--and your observations accurate as ever!

  2. I thought it was a picture of Linda Julien at first glance. As I become an ex-school mom in Seattle, this book might be perfect this summer - graduation in 4 days!

  3. You should both read this book, it is totally hilarious, and very Seattle. I think it might be only out on Kindle in the US...

  4. Oh, and it's not Linda, but it is my friend who lives in the same small town in Ireland that Linda's family comes from...


Post a Comment