Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Review: Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

"Today Will Be Different" by Maria Semple
First published in 2016
259 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:
Not terrible, but not nearly as good as "Where'd You Go, Bernadette."

The Long Of It:
If you're expecting Maria Semple's new novel to be another "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," you'd be half right. It's got several similar plot points, and it tries -- too hard, at times -- to reproduce the quirk, wackiness and sarcastic worldview of "Bernadette." But it lacks the sweet charm and laugh-out-loud humor that made Semple's previous novel so special.

"Today Will Be Different" takes place entirely in one action-packed day in Seattle. Eleanor Flood wakes up and vows to be a better person, to start getting her shit together, to be a more present mom and wife. And the world laughs at her and says, "Not today, you're not!" Misadventures and soul-searching and ensue.

Like Bernadette, Eleanor is a former career woman haunted by some difficult events in her past. Like Bernadette, she's a questionable mother to a cute, old-soul kid, she's married to an affable man with a reasonably important job, and she's kinda cynical and mean with a vague idea that the world is out to get her.

It's impossible not to compare "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" and "Today Will Be Different" when they're so alike, and "Bernadette" wins the contest hands-down. Where Bernadette's antics made me laugh, Eleanor sometimes comes across as judgmental, self-centered and whiny. Bernadette also redeems herself at the end of the novel much more successfully (and in a much more interesting way -- via Antarctica cruise) than Eleanor does. I also felt like the plot of "Today" could've been fleshed out a lot more; plenty of questions were raised but never answered.

All this is not to say you shouldn't try "Today Will Be Different." The writing was good -- easy to read, with similar tempo and zinger-filled prose to "Bernadette," and some of the oddball quirkiness is definitely there. If you enjoyed "Bernadette" you'll probably find Semple's new book to be a decent read; just don't expect it to be as good as its predecessor. And if you don't love it, at least it's short -- I read most of it in one day.


  1. I was so excited for his to come out but it hasn't gotten that great of reviews. I will still read and glad to hear it is at least short! Great review!!

  2. Hmmm. I haven't read either of these but I think if I'm going to give them a try I'll definitely start with Bernadette.

    Great review!

  3. As I still haven't read Bernadette yet, I think I'll give it a go before this one! Nice review.

  4. Aw- bummer. I was really looking forward to reading this. Considering I was a little put off by Buernadette's flighty and whiny nature in her previous book, it doesn't sound like I'd enjoy the main character in the new one very much at all. Thanks for the review!

  5. Her first book was a DNF for me but I loved everything about Bernadette, I haven't laughed that much at a book in a long time. I think I will pass on this one because as you say hard not to compare.


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