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Gustave Flaubert's 1856 novel, for all of its modern sense of honesty and power, could have been written yesterday. Here we have one of literature's tragic heroines—the beautiful Emma Bovary—and the dark temptations that draw her down a fatal path. Emma is besieged by boredom as she yawns away her days as a country doctor's wife in a town where nothing seems to happen. Seeking change and excitement, Emma comes up with a desperate and dangerous solution: the pursuit of excess. She embarks on tumultuous affairs with two different lovers, making extravagant purchases and living a lie more reckless than any of her neighbors would ever dare. Emma's husband is clueless to her sins, but when an unpaid bill for one of Emma's shopping trips arrives at home, he begins to understand what has happened. Emma's crimes of passion are swift to catch up with her, bringing her glamorous lifestyle to a screeching halt and tearing her life to pieces in a terrifying finale.
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Born into a comfortable French family in a quiet town, Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) wrote from an early age. Flaubert left home to attend law school in Paris. However, the bustling metropolis was not to his liking, and the young man returned to his family home, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Flaubert traveled often, visiting such exotic locales as Greece and Egypt. His mind was opened, and his imagination sparked. He found his calling as a writer and began publishing books soon afterwards. Flaubert's second novel, Madame Bovary, would bring him the most fame and notoriety. Both the author and his publisher were brought to trial over the novel's scandalous story of a respectable wife’s fall from grace into adultery. Society was not ready for Emma Bovary and Flaubert's frank portrayal of her boredom, despair, and turn to sexual transgression. Flaubert was not discouraged from pursuing his art, despite the public's harsh reaction to his work. He went on to write The Sentimental Education, and Bouvard and Pecuchet, novels that to this day, along with Madame Bovary, represent a groundbreaking artistic commitment to honesty and unflinching realism.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
To Marie-Antoine-Jules Senard Member of the Paris Bar, Ex-President of the National Assembly, and Former Minister of the Interior Dear and Illustrious Friend, Permit me to inscribe your name at the head of this book, and above its dedication; for it is to you, before all, that I owe its ...Back to top
Reviewed by lizkies on Feb 21, 2010
the unexamined life
I didn't grow very attached to this book, but I still really liked reading it. This translation is extremely readable, and Flaubert's style is so clear and attentive. So much of the description in the narrative is wonderful, the settings all extremely knowable. In general the author's view became the most compelling aspect: this book basically seems to be about people being tragically stupid. No one here is very nice, nor worthy of niceness, and though that's depressing, it's not without truth. Flaubert's eye is merciless, and still he seems to pity the fools.
Even though she's mostly unsympathetic, Emma never stops being interesting to read about. Her relationships are sort of compelling, and Charles is a great character. The last few sections make the book's message pretty clear, though it is awfully grim. Folks are a letdown. And luxury is sort of a joke. Um, yay.
Reviewed by CyberReader on Apr 26, 2009
Reviewed by AMeador on Mar 28, 2009
I didn't care for it very much but I like to finish what I start. It did give a picture of what life was like in that era though I don't think Madame Bovary was a typical woman. She was very selfish and immoral. She did not appreciate what she had and he was a dupe.
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Ratings for 'Madame Bovary' by Flaubert, Gustave