Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

published 2012

[Bernadette Fox is emailing her virtual assistant]

I’d also like a fishing vest, one replete with zippered pockets. Back when I actually enjoyed leaving the house, I sat on a plane next to an environmentalist who spent his life zigzagging the globe. He had on a fishing vest, which contained his passport, money, glasses, and film canisters – yes, film, it was that long ago. The genius part: everything’s in one place, it’s handy, it’s zipped in, plus you can whip it off and plop it down on the X-ray belt. I always said to myself: next time I travel, I’m going to get me one of those. My time has come. You’d better get two...

[later] Oh! The fishing vest’s arrived. Thank you! Already, I’ve tucked away my glasses, car keys, cell phone. I may never take this thing off.

observations: Earlier this week, Maria Semple’s This One is Mine featured – and the wedding dress is much more attractive than the fishing vest, even if this is the better book (it first appeared on the blog last year). It is a very complex story, with a lot of threads, and bursting out with ideas and comments, and judgments on present-day life, and on Seattle. But everything is assigned to a character – you can’t guess where Semple would stand on most of the issues that crop up. It’s an enormously clever, satisfying book.

The fishing vest has an important role to play: it makes sense that the slightly loopy Bernadette wears it, but it is clear that she looks odd in it, and it’s seen as another piece of evidence for her state of mind. And then, on re-reading, you see how important it is at a later point in the book, taking care of something that might otherwise be inexplicable. One thing though – another character says:
Through the mesh pockets, I could see her wallet, cell phone, keys, passport. ‘I can do anything,’ she said with a smile.

--- but most fishing vests do NOT have mesh pockets. When you think about it, a solid pocket makes much more sense when you are around water. But here is one that is a bit mesh-y:

Links on the blog: More on life in Seattle in this book. New directions - the blog generally features high fashion or decorative or historical clothes, but this fishing vest follows on from a recent venture into Gore Tex in the excellent The Rosie Project.


  1. Moira - I have to say, I like the usefulness and versatility of that fishing vest even if the wedding dress does look better. And the Seattle setting is appealing too. :-)

  2. I was thinking of a photographer's vest but will look into fishing vests as well now. What would be great is to have some hidden internal pockets as well as outside ones for passport, spare credit cards and cash etc....

  3. Carole and Margot - I know! The more you look at it, the more of a useful practical item it seems. Think how it would simplify life, it would be like wearing your handbag, with added safety and security and less able to lose it or leave it behind!

  4. The Tilley vest is really the ultimate as far as this type of garment goes. It comes with a lifetime guarantee as well. Can't remember if there's mesh pocket, mind you. My husband has one and once he loads all the pockets it weighs more than a suitcase!
    I really do need to read this novel. Keep waiting for it to fall into my lap, but it may be time to actually go look for it.

    1. There you go you see, I knew this entry would widen my horizons. I took a look, and I was very impressed, but then realized that was because I liked the white t-shirt and blue shirt underneath - as an ensemble it looked very stylish. I am so not an outdoorsy person... I'll be really interested to hear what you think when you do get round to this one, Sara - I rushed to read it because I used to live in Seattle, but I think that's not essential!

  5. Had no idea what I was getting into. Read it because I love all things Seattle. Took me by surprise, I have not stayed in bed to read in years. I enjoyed the email-style dialogue, kooky but interesting concept. Highly recommend this book.

    1. Oh me too - I think anyone could enjoy it, but someone who knows Seattle has special opportunities to love it.


Post a Comment