Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment and the consequences are devastating.

Genre: Fiction, Classics
Year: 1857
Rating: 5/5

Madame Bovary begins by introducing Charles, a student and then doctor, who marries Emma. At first, Emma thinks she is in love with Charles but soon comes to find that she is bored. Being a wife, and later mother, does not live up to her expectations so she soon strays.

Emma also has a weakness for pretty clothes and household objects. She spends well beyond her means, taking out loans and promising to pay the money back. She eventually finds herself in financial ruin and in a situation she has no idea how to fix.

This novel has been called, 'the most perfect novel ever written'. Flaubert wrote a beautifully expressed, articulate novel about a realistic situation. Although the storyline and themes addressed in this novel are not original, Flaubert manages to address them it a way which is interesting, the story flowing seamlessly from page to page. 

He also managed to create a sympathetic female character despite her many flaws. Emma Bovary is a self-absorbed, silly woman. She longs for a certain kind of excitement and happiness in her life, which is unattainable due to her temperament. Nothing holds her interest for long, so she throws herself from love affair to love affair, from hobby to hobby, trying to find the one thing that can satisfy her desires. She throws her whole self into her love affairs with reckless abandon, caring not for the consequences. When they go sour, she is devastated and her whole being is absorbed with her grief.  

"So far as Emma was concerned she did not ask herself whether she was in love. Love, she thought, was something that must come suddenly, with a great display of thunder and lightning, descending on one's life like a tempest from above, turning it topsy-turvy, whirling away one's resolutions like leaves and bearing one onward, heart and soul, towards the abyss"

When I first picked up this novel, I expected to dislike Emma. When I read about adulterous characters, or characters as selfish as Emma, I usually find them reprehensible. I never sympathise with them and am happy when they do not succeed in their immoral behaviour. In this case that was not so, I actually really liked Emma.

Sure she was a self-absorbed, silly woman as I said. She made poor choices, had no regard for other people, treated her husband and child terribly and was pretty shallow... but there was something endearing about her.

That is not to say that I did not feel for her poor, clueless husband (and how could he not notice, come on!) but Emma was not a bad person, she was just so wrapped up in her own head and her own desires, that she could see little else.

Flaubert never condemns Emma for her behaviour, he just tells her story 'as it is' and doesn't rely on moral judgments. He leaves the reader to make up their own mind.

This novel is really well written, and easy to read. Flaubert's prose is delicate and pretty. I loved the way he described the most ordinary of situations or feelings.

'Has it ever happened to you - to come across in a book some vague idea which you have already had, to find yourself confronted by some misty image from afar which seems to embody your most exquisite feelings?'

'Never had life seemed so good. A little while and she would come, delicious, trembling, glancing behind her to see who might be looking, with her flowered dress, her gold lorgnon, her dainty shoes, and all the manifold refinements so new to his experience, the ineffable charm of virtue on the brink of surrender'

I really wish I  could read the original French version of this book because so much meaning is always lost in translation. 

This was an enjoyable read and it is a novel that I am happy to have sitting on my bookshelf. 

Have you read Madame Bovary? What did you think of this novel? What are your feelings regarding Emma?
All content © And the plot thickens... 2009-2011 or their respective owners as credited.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP