Bernadette Fox is notorious.
To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she's his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife.
To fellow mothers at the school gate, she's a menace.
To design experts, she's a revolutionary architect.
And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum.
There were so many things about "Bernadette" that I generally enjoy. Good! humour - oh, yes (Semple has written for "Arrested Development" - one of the few truly funny TV-shows). Those who have seen the show can probably guess what you'd get with the book - crazy funny characters and situations that border on tragic and hilarious. The whole Fox family is just loveable (although all the other characters in the book would probably argue with that :p). Bernadette herself made me go "aww" constantly - she is witty and talented and at the same time quite sociopathic (she hires an online assistant from India to "run" errands for her such as booking tables in diners and ordering medicine from the next-door drugstore); her relationship with Bee (who she actually named Balakrishna in the hospital right after birth - apparently that was just a slight mishap caused by being overwhelmed by the whole giving birth experience) is so adorable and even though the IT-genius-husband-dad-Microsoft guru (isn't it nice to see how not everything is about Apple, still?) Elgie seems to have weaker connections to this marvellous duo of females at first, he does fit in, just the way that his own crazy character and their whole family synergy enables.
Secondly - it is an epistolary novel (well not all of it, but mostly). And I love that form of writing. It allows reader to be a bit more distant and not getting all the characters' feelings and motifs punched in the face. And if you put together humour and epistolary writing... It can be (and in this case is) really, really funny.
Also, there is Antarctica. Being younger, I devoured Peter Hoeg's "Smilla's Sense of Snow" (the book full of snow, ice, and footsteps on white planes)*, so it came as no surprise to me that I truly enjoyed the setting of Antarctica in this book.
And did I mention characters? I might have, but I will again. Aside from the Fox family, there is a whole crew of people that we get to know through their e-mails (mainly). And not everyone that seems vicious at first ends up being such in the end.
Or maybe the main reason why I loved "Bernadette" (both book and character) so much was that I could recognise myself in this family. I could see how I would be a Bernadette, too. The kind of person you either love or hate (because they are quirky, way too straightforward and can come off as selfish. Oh and let's not forget giving the middle finger to all the "lovely expectations of the society").
I think this is a very good story, but not definitely something that you want to write a lot about; it is the kind of book you want to read, instead. I know it is a definite re-read for me, some time in future.
* The title of the book in English is actually "Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow", and "Smilla's Sense of Snow" is the title of the film. However, it is quite obvious how the first is so clumsy, whereas the latter is spot on with all the alliteration and what not. So I stubbornly call this book "Smilla's Sense of Snow".
I kind of liked Bernadette - I really liked how she didn't get alone with the crazy moms at Bee's school. Buuuut after a while she just seemed more crazy than likable, and I really, really, really didn't like the dad. Bee was adorable and a good kid :-) Overall I think this book just lacked something for me, but I'm so glad you enjoyed it!!ReplyDelete
I kinda understand. To be honest, the second half of the book wasn't as good as the first, buuut since there was Antarctica involved, I was willing to forgive that. Dad was oddball for sure, but I mostly liked his interactions with the rest, and how he came off there, cos true, I can't say I liked all his actions or something (*cough* that Soo-lin business).Delete
I adore epistolary novels. There is just something so engaging about reading a novel in a different form and it satisfies my nosiness feeling like I'm reading someone else's letters/emails :)This is one on the longlist that I am most excited about reading.ReplyDelete
I know! It is kind of like being nosy. Sometimes you think "was it really meant for my eyes at all..." And some of those e-mails are so funny. It may be only a few lines but you get all the story out of them, and can tell a lot about the characters that wrote them.Delete
This book sounds so good! I can't wait to check it out. This is my first time hearing of it- but I know I will like the humor and I really enjoyed your review. :)ReplyDelete
Thank you, Jess :) I hope you will enjoy (I see no reason why you wouldn't :) )Delete
I'm glad to hear that you liked this :) I loved it! It's smart and funny and I can see myself re-reading this as well.ReplyDelete
Yep, I bought the copy so I can definitely see a re-read in future, too :)Delete