The last thing I want to do is spoil anyone so please excuse any vagueness or odd hand waving. Hopefully those who have read the book will know what I'm getting at.
Like any good mystery we start off with a bunch of intriguing questions - was Ashley's death really a suicide? Who is this reclusive Cordova guy, anyway? And what kind of guy would make such twisted films?
The (non-spoilery) good stuff:
- The backstory. Pessl obviously put a ton of work into Cordova's filmography and it shows. I was worried that with a dozen or so film titles being thrown around I would get confused but there was always ample context.
- How the arc of the book as a whole mirrors... something else. While some might be annoyed with the end I thought it was fitting, especially how it related to... that something else. ~shakes a fist at the spoiler-free sky~
- Cordova's philosophy. I can't say I agree with it, but it's intriguing and made me think about how I'm living my own life. Not to mention that I need to read a certain poem now.
- Most of the characters are on the "unlikeable" side of the scale but they didn't make me want to throw the book across the room. All have their own motivations (however twisted) and it works.
The (zero spoiler) bad stuff:
- In the first half of the book question after question is raised but precious few are answered, and around the 50% mark I started to lose interest. Why should I keep reading if it just digs me deeper into a hole? Near the end things picked up and gave me some stuff to think about but it was a struggle to get there.
- The extras available through the "decoder" app. A couple were neat (a filmography, primary documents) but some were maddening. An interview with a murderer was especially bad, because...
- ...while Pessl does the fiction thing really well the art of the interview is lost on her. The questions sound like they're being read in order, no matter what the subject says. The murderer in particular leaves all these juicy tidbits hanging in the air, begging for follow up, but the interviewer just goes to the next question on her list. Maybe I've been spoiled by Terry Gross but it was beyond annoying.
- The voice acting in the app left much to be desired. It sounded like reading, not acting out a part.
Overall it was an interesting read that left me thinking but sadly it didn't live up to the hype.
Definitely in the "Plot? What Plot?" sub-genre with sex scene followed by change of scene followed by sex scene followed by angst followed by sex scene. The caper near the end of the book left me puzzled but I liked the believable depiction of a threesome and all the conflicting emotions therein.
Bernadette, mother of Bee, wife of a big wig at Microsoft, goes missing. Who was she, who is she, and where did she go?
Trust me, that's all you need to know. With the help of report cards, emails, faxes, and other seemingly random papers Bee documents the events leading up to her mother's disappearance and the subsequent search.
Epistolary novels are my weakness and this one is exceptionally good. The range of mediums, as well as writers and recipients, gives us a deep look into people's heads. And what interesting heads! Semple does a great job giving each character a distinct voice and making the whole thing funny to boot.
Starting feels a little bit like wading into the weeds but things come together quickly. Even after the narrative settled down Semple kept me on my toes by bringing up something I didn't know (AutoCAD, say) and letting it hang. It gnawed quietly on a corner of my brain for 10, 20, or 50 pages before a subtle explanation was dropped. More than once I found myself smiling and nodding in recognition, "ohhh, that thing!" Now and then there was a reference I did get (...AutoCAD, actually), letting me feel smart for a second.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette lives and breathes the axiom "show, don't tell". I don't want to spoil you, so let's just say that a powerpoint presentation is given in front of a large crowd. The speaker's clicker breaks two slides in, though, and he has to resort to explaining everything. It's perfect because it allows the transcript to be a full record while also showing the character's poise under pressure. Add in a live blogger's comments and it's masterful.The only fault I can find in the entire novel is a slightly slow part near the end, but it's so minor it's barely worth mentioning. Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a fun, engaging read just about anyone can enjoy.