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Maria Semple Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

This One Is Mine (2008)Description / Buy at Amazon
Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
Today Will Be Different (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon

In the strange little land called Hollywood, there is a lot of pressure. Perhaps the writers feel it more than anybody. They are faced with deadlines, adaptation issues, tough compromises and much more. Most of them have to be prolific in order to survive, some of them do not do much at all, but rare are those writers who were attached to so many various projects like Maria Semple was. This novelist and screenwriter is responsible for both “Mad About You” and “Beverly Hills, 90210”. Sample also wrote several very interesting novels, which could not be connected easily with her work on television if someone was not already familiarized with her career.

Maria Semple was born in 1964. She spent much of her childhood roaming through Europe. Her father, Lorenzo Semple, Jr. was also a versatile screenwriter, as he wrote a pilot for the 1966 Batman, as well as co-wrote “Papillon”, together with Dalton Trumbo. Maria studied at Barnard, where she majored in English. Life took her to LA where she took her chances as a screenwriter. Her first job was writing two episodes of “Beverly Hills” in 1992. Soon after, she wrote a several of episodes of various late shows, until she landed a job as a writer of several episodes of “Ellen” in 1994. However, she did not make her breakthrough until 1996, when she became a part of the writing team behind the popular sitcom “Mad About You”. The work on the show got Semple and her team nominated for the Primetime Emmy in 1997, for The Outstanding Comedy Series. Semple turned to producing, and she pitched several TV shows, most notably “Suddenly Susan” and “Arrested Development”. Her work on the latter did not go unnoticed, as she was nominated for the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Comedy Series. Semple then decided to take a turn in her career and move to Seattle where she focused on her work as a writer. Her first novel “This One is Mine” was published in 2008 and earned her a nomination for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award. “Where’d you Go, Bernadette” spent a year on the New York Times bestseller list and won the Alex Award in 2013. It was also shorlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2013.

Semple is perhaps best known for her second novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”. This comedy novel was published in 2012. The narration is fairly epistolary, as most of the plot is discovered through series of e-mails and memos written by Bee Branch, daughter of the main character. And the main character is Bernadette Fox. Bernadette is not what you would call a classic soccer mom- she is an architect, who backed out from her job, due to her growing weariness and fear of the world. She spends her days in a home in Seattle, together with her husband Elgin, who is a designer working at Microsoft, closely collaborating with Bill Gates. Bernadette and Elgin have a daughter Balakrishna Branch, simply called Bee. Bee was born with a medical condition that made her skin a little bit blue, hence the name (after Krishna, the blue Indian deity). Bernadette pretty much resents her neighbors, fellow citizens and the world in general. She is also agoraphobic and rarely enjoys the pleasures of outdoor activities. However, as Bee studies hard and gets good grades, she makes a wish that has to be respected- she wants to visit Antarctica. As one may expect, Bernadette is not delighted with the idea, but she starts making plans. Soon arrangements are made, and everything seems ready when suddenly Bernadette disappears. It is upon Bee to find her mother now, as she goes through numerous e-mails, memos, and letters left by Bernadette. Bee learns more and more about her mother as she tries to answer the question- where’d you go, Bernadette? The rights for the movie adaptation of this novel were acquired in 2013, with Richard Linklater set to direct. The screenplay was to be written by “(500) Days of Summer” and “Spectacular Now” writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webber. It was rumored that Cate Blanchett was the candidate for the main role.

“This One is Mine” is the first novel Semple ever wrote. It was with this book that Maria Semple drew the attention of the public to herself as the novelist. This satirical novel follows the life of Violet Perry, a well-off Hollywood housewife. Her husband David is a famous rock manager, and together they have a son named Dot. Dot is still a toddler, but is virtually the only thing that keeps Violet alive, as she is truly unhappy. Violet believes that she sank in the lower depths of life. However, Dot is a burden as well. She lost interest in everything, except in the reminiscing of her youth. She was a promising girl who got stuck in life. What is there to be done? Violet is not sure, but she knows that something has to change or she is done for. David is never around and Violet has to find meaning elsewhere. At last, she meets Teddy, an ambitious bass player, who seems to rekindle Violet’s aspirations from youth. All along, Violet has to deal with Sally, David’s sister, who is in an everlasting hunt for the perfect man. She seems to find it in Jeremy, an ESPN journalist. The two unlikely pairs are going to discover new paths in life. Where are those paths going to take them? To happiness, or perhaps to a destination of yet deeper misery?

It seems like there is no boundary for Maria Semple. She can write pretty much anything, and feel comfortable while doing it. She can write about deeply unhappy, even pathetic people, yet her novels will often be praised for their comic approach. Her characters are often quirky- this works for some readers, while some find it inappropriate. In that respect, Semple’s creations resemble those of Wes Anderson. Nonetheless, those who love or hate Anderson, can not deny that his movies are unique. Same goes for Semple. Whether it is your cup of tea or not, one has to admit that her novels are specific. After all, they spend months at the best-sellers lists. Not many writers can do that.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Maria Semple

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