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The novel cure: Literary prescriptions for the loss of creativity


Ailment: Creativity, loss of

Cure: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Ever feel that your creativity has been sapped by your uncreative career, poured into your children, or leached by the daily grind? That you have nothing left with which to spark a fire?

Take heart. We have the perfect novel to show you that it's never too late to get your creative mojo back.

Once upon a time, Bernadette was an architectural wunderkind. She designed and built the legendary Twenty Mile House in New York, using only materials from within a 20-mile radius, much of it from the old Beeber Bifocal Factory that used to exist on the site. Old frames became dividing screens, lenses became tabletops, optical machinery became table legs.

Her quiet revolution paved the way for a host of green architects who saw her as a saint of the eco-friendly building movement. But 20 years later, she's festering in suburban Seattle, with a mostly absent husband and a soon-to-be-shipped-to-boarding-school daughter.

What happened to her early promise?

With the help of emails, notes, letters and school memos, Bernadette's daughter Bee pieces together the mystery of her mother's unravelling career.

And just at the point at which Bernadette seems to be losing her husband and daughter – as well as herself – something finally propels her into action.

Take your cue from this fiftysomething ex- genius who rediscovers her creative streak.

You, too, can rekindle your ashy embers, with a little bit of prodding from within.

'The Novel Cure, An A-Z of Literary Remedies' (Canongate, £17.99); thenovelcure.com