Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Review- Madame Bovary

Madame BovaryFor the Shelf Love challenge, Mount TBR pile challenge, Back to the Classics Challenge and the Classics Club (and more specifically this last Classics Club spin) I read Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary.
Synopsis from Goodreads: As a provocative tale of passion and complacency, ideals and self-delusions, Madame Bovary (1857) remains a milestone in European fiction. In telling his story of Emma Bovary a farmer's daughter who, with girlhood dreams fuelled by sensational novels, marries a provincial doctor Flaubert inaugurated a literary mode that would be called Realism. But so exacting were Flaubert's standards of authenticity that his portrayal of the breakdown of Emma's marriage, and the frankness with which he treats her adulterous liaisons, scandalized many of his contemporaries. Yet to others, the mix of painful introspection, emotional blindness, and cynical self-seeking that distinguishes his characters made the novel instantly recognizable as a work of genius. It is a novel fixed upon the idea of romance of the need for Romance in the face of day-to-day banalities. It is a theme that is ironic insofar as the exquisite clarity of Flaubert s prose serves to hauntingly underline the futility of the heroine's ultimate tragedy.
This was a very interesting book. I didn't know too much about it before going into it except the synopsis. My first disclaimer is that while it deals with the very mature topic of adultery/infidelity it never ever describes these actions. That's the nice thing about reading a classic. They show that you can deal with dark and mature themes without describing them. As you can see in the synopsis though, it still managed to scandalize in it's time period and it ended up being banned.
I think this book is more interesting to read now than it might have been in it's time period. I feel like I see more people like Emma Bovary now than I do in the time period for which it was written. Emma is entirely selfish. She's caught up in herself and making herself happy but what you realize as the book goes on is that she really doesn't know what will make her happy and furthermore she is never going to be happy! Emma Bovary almost struck me as Bipolar as her moods went all over the place. For a month she'd try to be pious and a good mother and the next month she'd be neglecting her household and snap at her husband all the time. That was how her moods went: up and down all the time. She was so incredibly needy in her relationships and really in her whole life. She thought the world revolved around her.  She gave everything she had to her relationships instead of to her husband and child and in the end it ruined her, her husband and finally her daughter as well. I think that is one of the points Flaubert is trying to make in this book. Emma Bovary's sins didn't just affect her.
I found this book to be an intriguing read and not quite what I expected. I'm not sure if I"ll ever read it again but I think I will always remember it.

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  1. It's many years since I read this but yes, it has always stuck with me. She is such an annoyingly selfish character, but somehow his writing made me willing to put up with her. I've always meant to read another of his books sometime, but still never have...

    1. It feels like one of those books that will always stick with you. I'm not sure what else he's written but I think I might try another of his books someday.

  2. I agree, Flaubert treated the subject with discretion. Throughout reading this I kept thinking of another adultress, Anna Karenina, and a woman who was tempted, Jane Eyre. They form quite a contrast. To be honest I was rather disgusted with Emma, I pitied Anna, and I admired Jane.

    1. I love your contrasts. I could not stand Emma (disgusted is the perfect word), it has been so long since I read Anna Karenina that I can't quite remember how I felt about her and I have always admired Jane too. :)

  3. I really didn't know much about this book before reading your review. Sounds good enough to add to my Classics list.

    I read Age of Innocence and would be very honored if you would take a peek at my review. Thank you.


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