Posted in Careers, london, Moving to London, United Kingdom

Approved! 

Just a quick update to say that life has been hectic lately and I’m too emotionally and mentally spent to even contemplate writing a full-length blog. But for those who don’t already know, my indefinite leave to remain has been approved!

It was definitely an excruciating experience and an exercise in patience. For a second there, I really thought there was a real chance that I wouldn’t get the decision that I wanted. Seeing the letter and the word approved (they should really use big bold letters for that one word!) felt like a thorn has been pulled from my side and I drew my first easy breath in 8 hours (that’s how long I was at the home office).

What does this mean for me? Well, it means I basically earn the same rights as a citizen, although I still have to apply for the actual passport next year (and shell out another 2000 gbp). I can own a property, start a business, work anywhere if I don’t want to be a nurse. There’s no restrictions on my working hours, unlike when I was on a work permit when I can only work 20 hours a week extra on top of my contracted hours. I still need a visa if I want to travel this year because my passport is still Filipino, which is a pain because I honestly never want to go through the process of applying for any kind of visas ever again.

I guess what it means is that I can start thinking about building a life in the UK. For better or worse, this is my home now. And that mental shift has had unexpected results and have led to surprising decisions on my part. But I think when you’re young, its easier to take risks. And you take that risk because you don’t want to look back in the future and ask yourself ‘what if?’. I think the only truly bad experience is the lack of experience itself. 

Thank you to everyone who helped me out with this process, to the people who kept me calm when I was nearly in hysterics and to the people who were the first to celebrate with me. More celebrations to come later! 

Posted in london, Moving to London, United Kingdom

I Know I’m Extremely Anxious When…

As I write this, I am in the waiting room of the UK Home Office, waiting to hear my number come up so that I can submit my settlement application (Indefinite Leave to Remain). 

Visa applications always make me extremely anxious. My paranoid brain just goes into overdrive and cooks up a whole number of things that could possibly go wrong. Its funny, I’m normally a glass half full kind of person but not when it comes to things like these.

As visas go, this is probably the most important one I’ll ever apply for; its the penultimate step before I can obtain that long-awaited British passport. I’ve also paid 3000 hard-earned pounds for it. So its understandable to be anxious under these circumstances, but I think I have just taken anxiety to the next level. I really need to calm myself down and I thought writing a blog about how anxious I am would help (try to see the logic in this dear readers!).

So I’m passing the time by making a list of how I know I am beyond anxious and bordering on panic right now:

  1. I have no appetite whatsoever – for a girl who loves to eat, this is a bloody big deal. I can’t even think about food without wanting to vomit.
  2. Music doesn’t soothe savage beast- I’ve tried listening to my Good Mood playlist on Spotify, which usually works. But not today, today I am beyond the reach of Shake It Off and Mr. Brightside. Maybe some Black Parade will help?
  3. I cannot concentrate on what I’m reading. Honestly, I bought a book and my kindle to while away the time but every time I start reading my mind goes into all the possible worst-case-scenarios that could befall me and I just lose interest in Clarissa Fray and the rest of the Shadow Hunters.
  4. I break out in sweat. The weather has turned in London and its now the season of coats once again but I have been sweating buckets since I got off East Croydon station. Seriously.
  5. Little things start to annoy me. Like the fact that the application centre has to be all the way in freakin’ Croydon, or the Mary Sue-ness of the book character whose story I’m attempting to read (the tv series version is infinitely better!). Or the buzz of the people waiting in this room with me.
  6. I feel teary. And emotional. Like I’m likely to break out in tears any minute now.

I am almost certain that things will be fine and I will laugh about this in about 5 hours. But at this moment in time I am nothing if not a bundle of nerves. Watch this space guys, I will update you on my journey later on in the day. Wish me luck! 

Posted in Lifestyle, london, Music, Reviews

A Love Letter to Music and Intimate Concert Venues

I recently went to an intimate concert at the O2 Academy in Brixton and I just have to write about what a great venue it was and how awesome small venues are in general. Granted, it was a Killers concert so I would have had a great time regardless of where it was held. But really, I found it amazing that a band who had sold out arenas like Wembley can also choose to have a gig in a comparatively small venue.

This isn’t the first time I’ve attended gigs like these. In the past couple of years, I’ve bought tickets to watch underrated artists who may not sell out big venues but whom I really really like, maybe because I listened to their music repeatedly while I was growing up. Like Vonda Shepard for example, who rose to fame while playing songs on the hit show Ally McBeal.

I remember I used to “borrow” (and I use this term loosely) CDs from my uncle Tony’s extensive collection and hers was one of the albums that I would take up with me to my room. I was a very emotional and angsty teenager and I spent quite a lot of time in my room agonising over my teenage crushes and Vonda’s songs were (and still are) the perfect accompaniment to that. I dare any woman from my generation to tell me they didn’t cry their heart out to Baby Don’t You Break My Heart Slow.

​ 
 

I saw Vonda at Bush Hall, Sheperd’s Bush last year. When my sister and I were queuing up for this show, I was half afraid that we were being scammed because from the outside the place did not look like any concert venue I’ve ever been to before. There wasn’t even a proper entryway, just a tiny door that resembled the stage door that theatre performers go in and out of. But you should never judge a book by its cover I guess because the inside was absolutely beautiful. This hall looked more like it was used for wedding receptions and parties rather than concerts. It was awesome. And at 26£ per ticket, it was a freakin’ steal! 
Anyway, here are some of the other reasons why small venues are A-awesome:

You don’t need to queue for an entire day just to get a good view

So the last time I went to see The Killers at Hyde Park, I queued at 6am, had an egg mcmuffin at around 10 and nothing else thereafter, had small sips of water throughout the day so that I wouldn’t have to go to the toilet for the next 12 hours and eventually I got to see Brandon and co. at around 9pm. The reason I did all that is because I am only just over 5 feet on a good day and I wanted a good view of the band for my first Killers concert. So I was right up the front during the show but it came at the price of my sanity.

For their concert at Brixton, I came at 7 after having had a good pub dinner and a couple of rounds of drinks, bought another round of drinks at the actual venue before eventually grabbing a spot and still managed to have a good view of the band. O2 Brixton also has an amazing sloping floor so even if you’re at the back and vertically challenged like me, you’ll still be able to see Brandon Mr. Brightside Flowers. 

If you do make the effort to come early, the view is spectacular

The Apple Music Festival is held annually at The Roundhouse, another intimate venue. I’ve been lucky enough that even though I’ve never won any tickets for that festival (you can’t buy tickets, you have to enter a lottery because its completely free), I’ve had at least one friend win tickets 3 years in a row and they’ve taken me along as their plus one. I’ve seen Robin Thicke, Avicii, Little Mix and the last One Direction concert before the band broke up. I queued up pretty early for 1D because I am a not-so-closet directioner and as a result I got to see them up close. I had to battle it out with what seemed like hundreds of tweens though; at one point I thought a stampede would break out! I never want to go through it again, but it was still a great experience.

The acoustics are awesome

Because its such a small venue, the sound is kind of contained and so to me the acoustics sounded so much better than it does in the bigger venues.

 

You feel one with the crowd and with the artist

Gavin Degraw is one of those underrated artists who should be more famous than they are. His songs got me through college. One song in particular has special meaning to me and is the reason why I bought tickets to see him perform TWICE  in one year, both times at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. The first time I saw him live, More Than Anyone was not on the setlist and I was crushed. I was determined to keep watching him until he played it. And when he did, I really truly felt like he was singing it just  for me.


 

Absolutely beautiful. Thousands of people all singing along to my favourite song. I do love it when artists do sing-alongs during concerts. I saw Kodaline at Hammersmith Apollo and they asked the crowd to sing along to The One, which is actually the one song of theirs that I know the words to. I love the lyrics to this song. 

​​

I think for most artists, having people sing along to your songs is a form of validation. I mean, take The Killers for example. Every time they play Mr. Brightside, Brandon hardly needs to sing because the audience does it for him:


​  

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hearing Mr. Brightside live is akin to a religous experience. Lol

In some cases, you pay peanuts for the tickets.

The Killers tickets were a bit pricey at 68£ but most of the tickets for the shows I’ve seen hardly ever go over 30£. If you’re a music lover like me, that’s nothing. Also, when I’m watching lesser known artists, not only are the tickets cheaper but there’s also a guarantee that everyone who’s there are true fans which makes for a better experience.

So yeah, I’m sure arena concerts and festivals are awesome in their own way and they’ll have an entirely different atmosphere because of the huge crowds and the number of other activities that you can do. But I personally am spoiled for life after having been to shows like these. Although I wouldn’t turn my nose up if someone were to offer me, say, free Glastonbury tickets. I just want to celebrate music and all joys that come with it. 

Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, romance

In Death: An Ode to JD Robb

There is something to be said about an author who’s got enough mileage to keep a series – for the most part – fresh and interesting 44 books in, with number 45 having just been released this week.

JD Robb, who first gained fame as a romance author under the pen name of Nora Roberts, has earned the title of being one of the most prolific writers in the business. She still publishes under both pseudonyms and she’s able to churn out at least two books a year. While her works as Nora have declined in quality in my own personal opinion, the In Death series under JD Robb feels a little bit like the energiser bunny: its just going to keep on going until her fingers get too arthritic to type on a keyboard.

I read the first book in the series a little over a year ago when I was looking for a good whodunit crime novel. I picked up Origin in Death based on the recommendation of one of my Goodreads friends who has a reputation for always giving honest reviews. I was quite surprised that she praised this one so highly as she’s usually into alternate universes, post-apocalyptic settings and dystopia. In comparison, this “futuristic” series seemed a little bit tame for her taste. Despite the fact that its set about 60 years in the future in a still-recognisable but crazier version of New York City, and despite the fact that there are crazy gadgets and new inventions to help solve crime, at the heart of it this is a procedural crime novel with Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPD at its centre.

Eve and Roarke

Eve is an enigma even to herself. She’s very methodical and all about the job. She cares and stands for her victims and seems to take any crime in her city personally, which is what makes her so good. You can tell she’s been through something nightmarish in her past because she’s so closed off to other people and have very little, if any, time for a personal life. She is the job and the job is what makes her. While working a case, she meets the equally enigmatic and ultra-charming billionaire Roarke (no last name just like Madonna), who was initially one of the suspects in the case she was working on but who she later develops a romantic relationship with.

The mysteries in each book are interesting in and of themselves; I would probably have followed the series for that reason alone. But the backstory and the character development, as well as seeing how a relationship between two people with such a complicated and traumatic past developed into a strong partnership, is what makes the series special. Seeing how Eve Dallas, respected lieutenant with a reputation for solving crimes, navigates the minefield of marriage and is thoroughly discombobulated by her role as a wife provided a comedic fodder for all the other heavy stuff going on in the books. It was also amazing to see how she developed close relationships with other people and how she somehow allowed them in to her world as a result of opening herself up to Roarke. So much so that she finds herself pleasantly surprised that she’s managed to create a family after years and years of being alone.

The Supporting Cast

The supporting characters in the story also enrich the experience of reading the books. We’re introduced to Delia Peabody, Detective McNab, the other detectives at Cop Central, Chief Morris, Captain Feeney, the chief of police, Summerset the butler, Mavis Freestone, even Galahad the cat – they all matter. JD Robb somehow wrote the series in such a way that she gradually made the readers care for each and every one of them one book at a time. But the lynchpin of the books is really Eve. Its such a joy to see her journey as a character. Which isn’t to say that she can’t be annoying. I sometimes get so annoyed by how she sees things in black and white, which is probably why Roarke is perfect for her because he is all about the shades of grey in between.

44 books in the series!

I read all 37 books in this series one after the other. I’m quite happy that I didn’t know just how many books there were when I started because it might have put me off starting. As it is, I’m sure I made Amazon Kindle really happy when I bought all the published books back then in a bundle, it probably cost me a little over 200 quid but its money well spent. Not all the books were great and there were some that I was tempted not to finish because I was bored, but then those books would surprise me with a scene between Eve and Roarke that would just move their relationship forward and it would make up for an otherwise mediocre story. That’s how JD Robb hooks you: if the story is a dud, the character development makes up for it. If there’s nothing new to explore in terms of the main characters, you sink your claws into a good old-fashioned crime mystery. Its the perfect one-two punch.

Unfortunately, none of the books can be read as a standalone. I mean, when you start reading the first three or four you’d just want to carry on anyway. And okay, you can probably pick one book at random and still enjoy a good mystery but the payoff really is in knowing the characters and the history of how they all came to be what they are to each other. Some books are all about the payoff, with returning characters from previous books or a previous issue that was brought up in one of the previous books but was never fully explored. So I wouldn’t recommend not reading them in order. I would recommend borrowing them from someone who’s got the full collection rather than buying them like I did. There are some highlights in the series and you can go visit my page for my top ten favourite In Death books to check out my personal favourites.

All in all, reading books from this series always feels like visiting an old friend. Its always great to escape into Eve and Roarke’s world for a while and to pray that in these troubled times we live in where the world is literally going to hell in a hand basket, there would be someone like her in our police force who will stand for the good people of London the way Eve Dallas does for New York.

More power to JD Robb and may the books keep coming!

 

Posted in LGBT, Lifestyle, relationships

The Things You Find Yourself Doing When You’re Under The Weather

Dear Readers,

I apologise for being a little remiss on my blogging this past week as I have been battling the flu since last weekend. There were times when I was literally up all night coughing away and trying to find a comfortable position that best accommodates breathing. It sucked not being able to go out to enjoy the last remaining days of good weather but I somehow found ways to distract myself while I was stuck at home. I indulged my inner homebody and somehow managed to have a good time even while I was sick. That’s me, finding the silver lining in even the dreariest of situations.

So, what have I been up to this past week apart from applying liberal amounts of Vicks Vaporub. I’m glad you asked because I’m in the mood to tell you. This won’t be the most coherent of blogs. I’m going to have an existential ramble about things that have been weighing on my mind so be warned.

Netflix

Ah, good old Netflix. Where would we be without this streaming behemoth? For the discounted value of 9.99 a month, you’ll have hundreds of movies and tv series at the tip of your fingers. I’ve been looking for a good series to watch now that Game of Thrones has dropped the bomb that it won’t be showing the 8th season until 2019 (argh). Failing that, I’d settle for some good reruns.

So what to watch on Netflix? My sister was watching The Defenders one night and I tried that but only lasted an episode. I’ve never really been a fan of superheroes apart from the ones from the Marvel Universe. So I somehow found myself watching a show called Shadow Hunters and I got hooked.

This series is based on The Mortal Instruments book series by Cassandra Clare, the first three books of which I read a year ago. Its not groundbreakingly original and a few of my Goodreads friends have slammed the author for being a hack and capitalising on current YA trends to make cash and even plagiarising a few storylines. I guess I can see where they’re coming from but, come on, I don’t think she should be singled out when most of these YA fantasy novels feature the irritating commonalities of a love triangle or the perfect heroine whom everyone around her feels the need to protect, or the hero on a journey to self-discovery who somehow finds himself having special powers that make him different even among people who are different. These formulaic plot lines can be found in The Twilight Series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Divergent Series. If Cassandra Clare was able to make a name for herself by using the same formula, guys, just live and let live. No one’s forcing you to read the books.

Anyway, I quite liked the books and I liked the series even more. I like that an LGBT couple is one of the main focus of the storylines, its further proof of how far we’ve come as a society. The so-called ‘Malec’ tandem is one my favourite parts of the show and it didn’t even occur to me be weirded out by the fact that this was a romance between a guy and another guy. That wedding scene gave me the feels. Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario do such a great job handling these characters. It doesn’t hurt that Matt is outrageously good-looking. Its hard to appreciate the scene below without context  and without knowing the backstory but I think its still one of the best scenes of the series.

Also? Props on the background song. I’ve been playing ‘War of Hearts’ by Ruelle on repeat this past week because of this.

Another show that’s awesome but has sadly been cancelled is Sense8. Its about 8 people who are telepathically linked to each other and can read each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s emotions and share in each other’s experiences. I read somewhere that this series is really groundbreaking because of its message of equality. I feel like this is a recurring theme right now in most movies and tv series, the message that love is  love regardless of gender, sexuality, age, race or background. I really really like this show, especially during light-hearted moments like the one below:

I’ve forgotten how good this song is, and surprisingly relevant. Its also an awesome song to sing along to when you’re feeling frustrated with life, and I have to say I found myself singing this song a lot this past week.

Figuring Out The Future

I’m a creature of habit and I struggle with change. Paradoxically though, I also hate being stuck. I have to feel like I’m driving towards something in order to feel satisfied. I know this is a cliche but the journey really is the destination in my case. I like having a goal in sight and I enjoy working towards that goal. Lately it seems like I’m not setting any goals for myself and I’m just coasting along, letting life happen to me instead of taking the bull by its horns and making things happen.

It doesn’t help that people close to me who I really care about have been moving on to new things and I can’t help but feel like I’m being left behind. I’m really happy for them but I hate being the person who stays. I think I would rather be the person who leaves. I feel like I’ve lost an entire support system that I didn’t even know I need. I know they’ll always be my friends and we’ll still see each other and catch up. I believe in the kind of friendship that I have with these people and its the kind that will withstand distances and busy schedules. Still, I will miss being able to have that shared experience and having them get exactly what I’m going through. I guess it all boils down to the fact that there have been far too many goodbyes in my life this year.

I think about moving on sometimes, so I made a list of the good things I’ve got going for me to find reasons to stay. There’s not a lot but the few that made it to the list are major ones. I still enjoy what I do, and I like my team. I feel appreciated by most of the people I work with and I no longer give a damn about the people who don’t appreciate me. I still feel like I’m making a difference, and that’s really important to me. Professionally speaking, its never been just about the money for me. I’ve turned down high-paying jobs before because I feel like I wouldn’t make a difference in that organisation. I need to know that what I do matters. I don’t want to be just another nameless employee. I guess that more than ever is why I stay where I am. I feel valued, and my contribution to the department and the organisation has always been acknowledged by the people who matter. I guess I should remember that the next time I feel the urge to look for greener pastures. I’m really really lucky to be where I am and to do what I do.

Personal Woes

My personal life has ben stagnant for the last year or so. I’m one of those people who are just really unlucky when it comes to dating. Its a combination of not being able to meet the right people and my lack of belief in the whole online dating system. I know a lot of people have had success with it and I have now taken to banning myself from Facebook because every time I look at relationship photos of people who I know met their partners on online dating, I think to myself, why the hell can’t I just do what they do?

It just feels so wrong. And believe me, I’ve had ample time to think about this this past week while I was coughing away in bed. I do not want my relationship narrative to include swiping right on Tinder. Its just really frustrating to think about the fact that London has the highest number of single people in the world and I struggle to meet even one. And the ones I do meet are just not my type.

I’ve been accused of being picky before. I prefer to think of it as having standards. I would really like to have a stable relationship. At this point, I am so sick of the dating game. The endless miscommunication, the not-knowing, the uncertainty, the construing of signals and analysing little things down to the minute details – its fun for a while but sometimes you just really want to start building a life with someone.

I found the answer in church of all places. Now my faith in religion is not at its strongest, I think I’ve lost my way a little bit there. But I go to church partly out of obligation to my mother but also because I can’t force myself to relinquish my belief in a higher power. So I was sitting in church last Sunday and the priest was talking about love. He said that love isn’t what the movies make it out to be, but rather its a decision. That really stuck with me. Maybe its time to make the decision that I want to settle down with someone and all my actions should align with that decision. Its really given me something to think about.

I’m sorry this blog has been a bit of a ramble. I usually post to entertain but this one is really more like a catharsis for me. My next posts will be back to their normal length, I promise.

Its good to be back.

Posted in Books, Lifestyle, london

Top Five Reasons Why You Should Join A Book Club

In one of my many attempts to alleviate boredom and broaden my social circle, I joined the Armchair Murders Book Club at Waterstones a couple of months ago. The club meets every first Wednesday of the month at the Piccadilly branch of the well-know bookstore.

When I first started telling people about it, I got a lot of raised eyebrows and funny looks. I think some of my friends had this picture of me sitting with a bunch of old people and knitting while we talk about books. To be fair, I had the same apprehensions going into the first meeting. But I just reached a point where being on the Goodreads community wasn’t enough anymore and I just wanted to meet people who have a similar passion for books. I thought to myself that, if nothing else, I would at least get free wine out of it.

I think back to that first meeting and compared it to the one I attended on Wednesday evening and it really warms my heart to see how much the group has grown in numbers. I think we had about six people in the group when I first joined; on Wednesday there were 15 of us coming in to discuss this month’s book. Half the people in the group were my age or younger, which made for a very lively discussion. Everyone was so into it.

Anyway, if you love books and you love talking about them and analysing them down to the smallest detail, then joining a book club is one of the best things you can do. If you’re having second thoughts because you have pre-conceived notions about book clubs, STOP RIGHT THERE and allow me to tell you why joining one is awesome:

 

Free Wine

You laugh, but this is actually one of the biggest draw for some people. I mean, if you have to be bored out of your mind, its better to be bored with a glass of pinot grigio in your hand right?

(By the way, I don’t know if all book clubs offer free wine, but Waterstones certainly does)

 

Ten Percent Discount on Books of the Month

If you buy books as much as I do, every little discount helps. Of all the perks, I think this is the one I love most. The club often selects books for the next two months and I often just get both because I know they’ll be discounted anyway.

 

You read books that you don’t normally read

I have to admit that I used to be the kind of reader that stuck to certain genres or authors. I mean, I’ve always really loved murder/ mystery and crime fiction, but my choices tend to be more generic or a novel that’s made it to the bestseller’s list. Never in a million years would I have picked up a book like Black Water Lilies, which has been translated from French to English. And that would have been a shame because its now become one of my favourite books.

Because of the book club, I have literally learned not to judge a book by its cover and I’ve discovered so many more books to read. Its also broadened my taste in books in general, as in I now pick up a book because its a good story and not just because its written by an author whose work I’ve read before.

 

A New Perspective

This month’s book was If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. If you haven’t read it already, you can see my review on this book here. I raced through that book because the plot and the characters really gripped me. And you can see from my review that I was really drawn to the romantic part of it, going so far as to say that I felt like love was the overarching theme of the book.

Wednesday night’s discussion really gave me a fresh insight into the book. By listening to other people’s opinions and their own interpretation of some of the scenes, I can see my own naïveté and how my own personality and outlook in life colour the way I see things. Among the key points that I learned last night was that love is different from obsession. Love is not love if it hurts other people and that even if you think you’re doing something for someone you supposedly love, it doesn’t mean that you’re not being selfish and manipulative. I will probably never look at a romance novel in the same way again (lol).

 

Friendly Debates

Of course not everyone loved the book. There were quite a few people who had strong opinions about either the plot or the characters. But the point of the book club is that you have to read it anyway, regardless of whether you want to throw the book against the wall halfway through. I knew from the start that this was the kind of book that would polarise the group and I was right. It was very interesting to hear from both the “lovers” and the “haters” and I really enjoyed debating plot points and character development with people who were as into these things as I was.

 

New Friends

One of my friends told me once that she really envied how I could easily feel at ease with people I’ve just met. I think I’m just the kind of person who’s interested in everyone’s story. I enjoy a good gab session, I really do. So if  you put me in a situation where I meet new people AND I get to talk about books, then you’ll really see me in my element. I genuinely enjoyed the company of the people I met last night and as a result I have more Facebook and Goodreads friends this week than I had last week. Life is good.

 

I know joining a book club doesn’t really sound like a cool thing to do. But in my opinion, we already do so many things just to project a certain image to the world, we should be able to do things for ourselves or just because we love it. And that’s what being in a book club means to me. I hope all my fellow bookworms out there find a similar outlet for their passion as well.

Cheers! x

 

 

Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, Uncategorized, Women's literature

Book Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette? – Maria Semple

Its funny. 

We never really think of our parents as being people. To us, they’re Mum and Dad: the people who know all the answers, who can make the scary stuff go away, who will always be there to bandage every hurt and dress every wound. Growing up, we see them as these superhuman creatures that we can always count on to catch us when we fall. That’s how I saw my parents anyway.

Until I moved away from home and embarked on my own “adulting” journey, it never occured to me to think of my parents as two people who are probably just as scared as I am about the responsibilities that come with being an adult. No one really gives you a set of instructions for these things; there’s no set objectives like, year one month one: set up a bank account: month two, make sure you have health insurance. You kind of figure it out as you go along. You fake it and hope to God you make it (I imagine parenthood would be the same but magnified because you’re actually responsible for another person).

So why am I waxing lyrical about mum and dad? Well, that’s kind of the key theme of ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’. Bernadette Fox is many things to different people: an architectural legend,a brilliant but troubled wife, an uncooperative neighbor and the menace of the local parent-teacher association. But to her daughter Bee, she’s really just Mum. Until Bernadette disappears and Bee has to put together the pieces of her mum’s life to really see the dynamic, complex woman beneath the Mommy mask.

This book is told primarily through letters sent to and from Bernadette and letters about Bernadette. These letters were collected by Bee to help her in search for her mum. I always find this epistolary style quite clever. Its hard to give a full picture of a story through letters and emails but I think if done well, it really works. I actually think this novel loses a lot of steam once we got to the more linear kind of narration (from Bee’s point of view).

The blurb is a little bit misleading because I thought the journey to ‘finding’ Bernadette would involve a lot more, well, travelling. Especially to places that relate to her past. I thought the novel would explore her past more because there was a big build up about this ‘terrible thing’ that happened to her which had such a huge impact on her life. But the actual search for Bernadette seemed a bit anti-climactic. It was pretty obvious where she went and I never really understood why she went there, why she stayed and if anything was resolved at the end of the book.

I’m not sure if we readers are meant to sympathise (and like) the titular character. She seemed a mess to me and while I can see why that is, I think I agree with her husband when he said that we shouldn’t let past failures keep us from trying again. Its how you pick yourself up after a fall that matters after all. While this book is intended to be a satire or a dark comedy, I think Bernadette is a really tragic figure in that she never really realises all her potential. Towards the end its hinted that there might be some resolution but as I said, it wasn’t really clear. Maybe this is intentional, I don’t know. I’ve never really been a fan of books that leave the ending open to interpretation.

What’s evident throughout though is the fact that as troubled as Bernadette may have been, no one can doubt that she tried to be a good mother to Bee. She allowed Bee to be whoever she wanted to be and made everything an adventure. She probably wasn’t the most dependable of parents, but she was there when it mattered. It reminded me of that episode of Modern Family when one character said that 80% of the time, being a good parent meant simply showing up.

So yeah, this book was a good read. While I never really connected to the characters or the plot, I can’t deny that I was thouroughly entertained. Maria Semple’s writing style just flows and I would definitely read her other books if the plot sounds interesting. 

I’d like to end this post with a photo of my mum. Whatever else she may have been in the past, I am happy for the combination of whatever fulfilled dreams, untold failures and twists of fate that led her to being my mama, the wind beneath my wings, my anchor and my rock. 😘