Dan Sandman

04: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Books, Fiction, Romance on 23/01/2015 at 12:00 pm

Madame Bovary by Gustave FlaubertAs a major French novelist, Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) has been studied and read for over a century-and-a-half. His first novel Madame Bovary (1857) made Flaubert’s name, and is a scintillating romance about a woman who is bored with provincial life. Married to a sensible doctor, whose medical skills are at best average, Madame (Emma) Bovary begins to foster and maintain adulterous relationships.

Emma’s affairs, although temporary thrilling, fail to satisfy her unsettled soul. Madame Bovary is very keen to spend her husband’s money, and absorb herself in sentimental novels and music, but even these cerebral distractions leave her wanting. As the psychological portrait thickens, revealing Emma as a complex and disturbed character, the inevitable tragedy looms.

I was handed this book by a friend, who had decided to stop reading it halfway through. When I asked my friend for a reason, she said that Madame Bovary is not a likable character. To this point I agree: Emma is deceitful, reckless, vain and self-centered. However, this did not stop me from enjoying her exploits, and the quirky characters who inhabit her little nineteenth century village. I was excited to see how far Emma could push her conscience, and test her lying abilities, before she fell apart completely. And when I allowed Flaubert to weave my imagination, I felt joy and fascination, as though I had traveled by time machine to some happily nostalgic and curious land.

It’s a classic French novel about a tragically bored woman.

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