Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be DifferentToday will be different. Today I’m going to do yoga, cleanse my soul, be kinder and more attentive to people, especially those who annoy me. Today I’m going to eat more than my recommended intake of vegetables. Today the laundry will get done, I will make a fun and healthy snack for my child. I will get dressed. In something nicer than jeans.  Continue reading

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

the-boys-in-the-boatI know, me and a book about sports? I don’t think so. But trust me, it is a little different with Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. First, it came highly recommended from people I trust. Second, it is about rowing, a sport to which I have some experience and sentimental attachment.

Boys in the Boat recounts the journey of men’s eight crew to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Brown enters this narrative through Joe Rantz and his fellow crew mates at the University of Washington. Although rowing is often associated with blue bloods and the Ivy League elite, in the case of the Washington crew this could not be further from the truth. The students who comprised the crew often came from rough backgrounds and truly suffered during the years of the Great Depression. This makes Boys in the Boat a story of underdogs triumphing over adversity and making good on the world stage of the Olympic. Continue reading

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

bernadetteSitting by the lake at the cottage, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple kept me laughing and reading through the hottest part of the day. That’s how good it was. I couldn’t tear myself away for long enough to go in for a cooling dip and I became down right anti-social with my friends.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is told in a series of ‘documents’ – emails, faxes, parent newsletters, reports etc – interspersed with 13 year old Bee Branch’s commentary. The story follows Bee’s mother, Bernadette, as she descends a slippery slope. Is she mad? Or just unlike the other other ‘Subaru parents’ who populate her life? The documents extracted from the Subaru parents are priceless in the way they capture this sort of parent. As a mother who spends much of her day at either school pick up or drop off, those passages made the novel worthwhile.

I enjoyed the commentary on life that Semple provided throughout her novel. As a former Vancouverite I could relate as she poked fun at Pacific Northwest types in Seattle. I also enjoyed the friendly ribbing handed out to Canadians. However, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is more than just a commentary on a certain kind of upper middle class lifestyle. It also conveys the angst of the artist who is no longer producing art. The insight into this type of character reveals may in fact reveal more than we know about Semple.

Who would like this book? As most people already know Semple has famously written for TV shows including Mad About You and Arrested Development. She is a humorist and a very good one at that. What she has produced in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is by no means heavy literature, but it does stand above the notorious lightness of some chick lit. It is funny and clever. At times her commentary on modern life veers into territory normally occupied by the likes of Jonathan Franzen, but without the gravity that accompanies his work.