By Miranda Di Carcaci
Where’d You Go, Preconceptions
Have you ever been recommended a book stirred instant aversion within you because of its title?
This is emphatically different from its cover – God forbid I become some kind of cliché, unable to differentiate between the verbal wonderland laid out by an author, and a pushy editor who says ‘trust me, women are more likely to buy a book with a pink cover’ or ‘at least consider writing your name in calligraphy’. Although it’s true that I found the cover art of the book in question mildly jarring. What had started as a casual suggestion from my mother this summer, had snowballed into a full blown war of attrition. The word began to spread. The offending title was on everyone’s lips. Even a total stranger at a Christmas drinks party brought it up after a lull in conversation, the surprise of which, combined with a poorly timed devil on horseback, almost sent me to an early grave.
Anyway, in light of trying new things (an activity I’m suspicious of in itself), I decided to pick up the copy my mother had the nerve to leave on my bedside table. I looked down at the cover. A pair of oversized sunglasses looked up at me. Her parted, rouged, lips seemed to whisper: ‘I’ve won’. I turned the book over, unable just yet to open it and so throw off the shackles of my arbitrary preconceptions. The reviews did little to ease my chains, contrarily The New York Times’s promise of ‘free-range hilarity’ raised a whole other set of issues. Is there such thing as ‘factory-farmed hilarity’? Should I open the book confident in the knowledge that the author takes regular exercise breaks while writing? Is it organic?
At this point, to withhold the title for much longer would be a crime. It is *drumroll* Where’d You Go, Bernadette. For some of you, this will elicit a cry of horror. Perhaps your will turn to the person sitting next to you, a relative, flat mate, or even a stranger on the train home, and say ‘Surely not, it is difficult to witness the sabotage of what could be a perfectly good novel.’ Unfortunately, you and I will be in the minority. Most readers of my ramblings will at this point be thinking something along the lines of ‘I don’t really see what the problem is’ ,‘I think it sets up intrigue’, or ‘I wonder what’s for lunch’. Allow me to enlighten you. 1) Where’s the question mark? A grammatical error of this magnitude before we have even reached Page 1 makes me fear for the body of the text. 2) Do I want to know where Bernadette has gone? I have trouble enough keeping track of my own possessions without having to go on a fictitious hunt for a whole human being. 3) Why the contraction? Is it a casual manhunt? Or are cover artists at W&N charging by the letter these days? 4) I don’t like the name Bernadette. These the most compelling reasons I can muster. If you are still unconvinced, then don’t worry; you are still firmly in the majority.
To cut a long and boring story short, I opened the book, and, despite gargantuan odds, enjoyed it immensely. I don’t know what my rigid and prohibitive mind expected. I know that it didn’t anticipate being thrust into Silicon Valley through a journey littered with brambles, infidelity and pink penguins. I won’t be crass and relay the plot. Now you have the title you can Google a more elegant synopsis. I can, however, wholeheartedly recommend it.