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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

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Madame Bovary

ratings:
3/5 (4,026 ratings)
Length:
513 pages
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 7, 2015
ISBN:
9786155564208
Format:
Book

Description

Madame Bovary takes place in provincial northern France, near the town of Rouen in Normandy. The story begins and ends with Charles Bovary, a stolid, kindhearted man without much ability or ambition. As the novel opens, Charles is a shy, oddly dressed teenager arriving at a new school amidst the ridicule of his new classmates.


Later, Charles struggles his way to a second-rate medical degree and becomes an officier de santé in the Public Health Service. His mother chooses a wife for him, an unpleasant but supposedly rich widow named Heloise Dubuc, and Charles sets out to build a practice in the village of Tostes (now Tôtes).


One day, Charles visits a local farm to set the owner's broken leg, and meets his client's daughter, Emma Rouault. Emma is a beautiful, daintily dressed young woman who has received a "good education" in a convent and who has a latent but powerful yearning for luxury and romance imbibed from the popular novels she has read. Charles is immediately attracted to her, and begins checking on his patient far more often than necessary until Heloise's jealousy puts a stop to the visits. When Heloise dies, Charles waits a decent interval, then begins courting Emma in earnest. Her father gives his consent, and Emma and Charles are married.



ABOUT AUTHOR:


Gustave Flaubert (French: December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) was an influential French writer widely considered one of the greatest novelists in Western literature. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary (1857), for his Correspondence, and for his scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics. The celebrated short story writer Maupassant was a protégé of Flaubert.


Early life and education:
Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, in the Seine-Maritime department of Upper Normandy, in northern France. He was the second son of Anne Justine Caroline (née Fleuriot; 1793–1872) and Achille-Cléophas Flaubert (1784–1846), a surgeon. He began writing at an early age, as early as eight according to some sources.
He was educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen, and did not leave until 1840, when he went to Paris to study law. In Paris, he was an indifferent student and found the city distasteful. He made a few acquaintances, including Victor Hugo. Toward the end of 1840, he traveled in the Pyrenees and Corsica. In 1846, after an attack of epilepsy, he left Paris and abandoned the study of law.


Writing career:
His first finished work was November, a novella, which was completed in 1842.
In September 1849, Flaubert completed the first version of a novel, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He read the novel aloud to Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp over the course of four days, not allowing them to interrupt or give any opinions. At the end of the reading, his friends told him to throw the manuscript in the fire, suggesting instead that he focus on day-to-day life rather than fantastic subjects.
In 1850, after returning from Egypt, Flaubert began work on Madame Bovary. The novel, which took five years to write, was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856. The government brought an action against the publisher and author on the charge of immorality, which was heard during the following year, but both were acquitted. When Madame Bovary appeared in book form, it met with a warm reception.
In 1858, Flaubert traveled to Carthage to gather material for his next novel, Salammbô. The novel was completed in 1862 after four years of work.
Drawing on his youth, Flaubert next wrote L'Éducation sentimentale (Sentimental Education), an effort that took seven years. This was his l

Publisher:
Released:
Apr 7, 2015
ISBN:
9786155564208
Format:
Book

About the author

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was born in Rouen, France. Published in 1857, Madame Bovary gained popularity after a failed attempt to ban it for obscenity. Salammbô (1862), Sentimental Education (1869), and the political play The Candidate (1874) met with criticism and misconceptions. Only after the publication of Three Tales in 1877 was Flaubert's genius publicly acknowledged.


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Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary

(Illustrated)

By

Gustave Flaubert

Translated from the French

By

Eleanor Marx Aveling

Illustrated by Murat Ukray

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About Author

Flaubert, photographed by Nadar

Gustave Flaubert (French: December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) was an influential French writer widely considered one of the greatest novelists in Western literature. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary (1857), for his Correspondence, and for his scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics. The celebrated short story writer Maupassant was a protégé of Flaubert.

Life

Early life and education

Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, in the Seine-Maritime department of Upper Normandy, in northern France. He was the second son of Anne Justine Caroline (née Fleuriot; 1793–1872) and Achille-Cléophas Flaubert (1784–1846), a surgeon. He began writing at an early age, as early as eight according to some sources.

He was educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen, and did not leave until 1840, when he went to Paris to study law. In Paris, he was an indifferent student and found the city distasteful. He made a few acquaintances, including Victor Hugo. Toward the end of 1840, he traveled in the Pyrenees and Corsica. In 1846, after an attack of epilepsy, he left Paris and abandoned the study of law.

Writing career

His first finished work was November, a novella, which was completed in 1842.

In September 1849, Flaubert completed the first version of a novel, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He read the novel aloud to Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp over the course of four days, not allowing them to interrupt or give any opinions. At the end of the reading, his friends told him to throw the manuscript in the fire, suggesting instead that he focus on day-to-day life rather than fantastic subjects.

In 1850, after returning from Egypt, Flaubert began work on Madame Bovary. The novel, which took five years to write, was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856. The government brought an action against the publisher and author on the charge of immorality, which was heard during the following year, but both were acquitted. When Madame Bovary appeared in book form, it met with a warm reception.

In 1858, Flaubert traveled to Carthage to gather material for his next novel, Salammbô. The novel was completed in 1862 after four years of work.

Drawing on his youth, Flaubert next wrote L'Éducation sentimentale (Sentimental Education), an effort that took seven years. This was his last complete novel, published in the year 1869.

He wrote an unsuccessful drama, Le Candidat, and published a reworked version of The Temptation of Saint Anthony, portions of which had been published as early as 1857. He devoted much of his time to an ongoing project, Les Deux Cloportes (The Two Woodlice), which later became Bouvard et Pécuchet, breaking from the obsessive project only to write the Three Tales in 1877. This book comprised three stories: Un Cœur simple (A Simple Heart), La Légende de Saint-Julien l'Hospitalier (The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller), and Hérodias (Herodias). After the publication of the stories, he spent the remainder of his life toiling on the unfinished Bouvard et Pécuchet, which was posthumously printed in 1881. It was a grand satire on the futility of human knowledge and the ubiquity of mediocrity. He believed the work to be his masterpiece, though the posthumous version received lukewarm reviews. Flaubert was a prolific letter writer, and his letters have been collected in several publications.

At the time of his death, he may have been working on a further historical novel, based on the Battle of Thermopylae.

* * * * *

Preface (About the Book)

Madame Bovary (1856) is the French writer Gustave Flaubert's debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Though the basic plot is rather simple, even archetypal, the novel's true art lies in its details and hidden patterns. Flaubert was a notorious perfectionist and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste (the precise word).

When it was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, the novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors. The resulting trial, held in January 1857, made the story notorious. After Flaubert's acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller when it was published as a single volume in April 1857. Flaubert's masterpiece is now considered a seminal work of realism and one of the most influential novels ever written. In fact, the notable British-American critic James Wood writes in How Fiction Works: Flaubert established for good or ill, what most readers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible.

Plot Summary

Madame Bovary takes place in provincial northern France, near the town of Rouen in Normandy. The story begins and ends with Charles Bovary, a stolid, kindhearted man without much ability or ambition. As the novel opens, Charles is a shy, oddly dressed teenager arriving at a new school amidst the ridicule of his new classmates. Later, Charles struggles his way to a second-rate medical degree and becomes an officier de santé in the Public Health Service. His mother chooses a wife for him, an unpleasant but supposedly rich widow named Heloise Dubuc, and Charles sets out to build a practice in the village of Tostes (now Tôtes).

One day, Charles visits a local farm to set the owner's broken leg, and meets his client's daughter, Emma Rouault. Emma is a beautiful, daintily dressed young woman who has received a good education in a convent and who has a latent but powerful yearning for luxury and romance imbibed from the popular novels she has read. Charles is immediately attracted to her, and begins checking on his patient far more often than necessary until Heloise's jealousy puts a stop to the visits. When Heloise dies, Charles waits a decent interval, then begins courting Emma in earnest. Her father gives his consent, and Emma and Charles are married.

At this point, the novel begins to focus on Emma. Charles means well, but is boring and clumsy, and after he and Emma attend a ball given by the Marquis d'Andervilliers, Emma grows disillusioned with married life and becomes dull and listless. Charles consequently decides that his wife needs a change of scenery, and moves from the village of Tostes into a larger, but equally stultifying market town, Yonville (traditionally based on the town of Ry). Here, Emma gives birth to a daughter, Berthe; however, motherhood, too, proves to be a disappointment to Emma. She then becomes infatuated with one of the first intelligent young men she meets in Yonville, a young law student, Léon Dupuis, who seems to share her appreciation for the finer things in life, and who returns her admiration. Out of fear and shame, however, Emma hides her love for Léon and her contempt for Charles, and plays the role of the devoted wife and mother, all the while consoling herself with thoughts and self-congratulations for her own virtue. Finally, in despair of ever gaining Emma's affection, Léon departs to study in Paris.

One day, a rich and rakish landowner, Rodolphe Boulanger, brings a servant to the doctor's office to be bled. He casts his eye over Emma and decides she is ripe for seduction. To this end, he invites Emma to go riding with him for the sake of her health; solicitous only for Emma's health, Charles embraces the plan, suspecting nothing. A four-year affair follows. Swept away by romantic fantasy, Emma risks compromising herself with indiscreet letters and visits to her lover, and finally insists on making a plan to run away with him. Rodolphe, however, has no intention of carrying Emma off, and ends the relationship on the eve of the great elopement with an apologetic, self-excusing letter delivered at the bottom of a basket of apricots. The shock is so great that Emma falls deathly ill, and briefly turns to religion.

When Emma is nearly fully recovered, she and Charles attend the opera, on Charles' insistence, in nearby Rouen. The opera reawakens Emma's passions, and she re-encounters Léon who, now educated and working in Rouen, is also attending the opera. They begin an affair. While Charles believes that she is taking piano lessons, Emma travels to the city each week to meet Léon, always in the same room of the same hotel, which the two come to view as their home. The love affair is, at first, ecstatic; then, by degrees, Léon grows bored with Emma's emotional excesses, and Emma grows ambivalent about Léon, who becoming himself more like the mistress in the relationship, compares poorly, at least implicitly, to the rakish and domineering Rodolphe. Meanwhile, Emma, given over to vanity, purchases increasing amounts of luxury items on credit from the crafty merchant, Lheureux, who arranges for her to obtain power of attorney over Charles’ estate, and crushing levels of debts mount quickly.

When Lheureux calls in Bovary's debt, Emma pleads for money from several people, including Léon and Rodolphe, only to be turned down. In despair, she swallows arsenic and dies an agonizing death; even the romance of suicide fails her. Charles, heartbroken, abandons himself to grief, preserves Emma's room as if it is a shrine, and in an attempt to keep her memory alive, adopts several of her attitudes and tastes. In his last months, he stops working and lives off the sale of his possessions. When he by chance discovers Rodolphe and Léon's love letters, he still tries to understand and forgive. Soon after, he becomes reclusive; what has not already been sold of his possessions is seized to pay off Lheureux, and he dies, leaving his young daughter Berthe to live with distant relatives and she is eventually sent to work at a cotton mill.

Chapter-by-chapter

Part One

1.       Charles Bovary's childhood, student days

2.       First marriage, Charles meets Rouault and his daughter Emma; Charles's first wife dies

3.       Charles proposes to Emma

4.       The wedding

5.       The new household at Tostes

6.       An account of Emma's childhood and secret fantasy world

7.       Emma becomes bored; invitation to a ball by the Marquis d'Andervilliers

8.       The ball at the château La Vaubyessard

9.       Emma follows fashions; her boredom concerns Charles, and they decide to move; they find out she is pregnant

Part Two

1.       Description of Yonville-l'Abbaye: Homais, Lestiboudois, Binet, Bournisien, Lheureux

2.       Emma meets Léon Dupuis, the lawyer's clerk

3.       Emma gives birth to Berthe, visits her at the nurse's house with Léon

4.       A card game; Emma's friendship with Léon grows

5.       Trip to see flax mill; Lheureux's pitch; Emma is resigned to her life

6.       Emma visits the priest Bournisien; Berthe is injured; Léon leaves for Paris

7.       Charles's mother bans novels; the blood-letting of Rodolphe's farmhand; Rodolphe meets Emma

8.       The comice agricole (agricultural show); Rodolphe woos Emma

9.       Six weeks later Rodolphe returns and they go out riding; he seduces her and the affair begins

10.   Emma crosses paths with Binet; Rodolphe gets nervous; a letter from her father makes Emma repent

11.   Operation on Hippolyte's clubfoot; M. Canivet has to amputate; Emma returns to Rodolphe

12.   Emma's extravagant presents; quarrel with mother-in-law; plans to elope

13.   Rodolphe runs away; Emma falls gravely ill

14.   Charles is beset by bills; Emma turns to religion; Homais and Bournisien argue

15.   Emma meets Léon at performance of Lucie de Lammermoor

Part Three

1.       Emma and Léon converse; tour of Rouen Cathedral; cab-ride synecdoche

2.       Emma goes to Homais; the arsenic; Bovary senior's death; Lheureux's bill

3.       She visits Léon in Rouen

4.       She resumes piano lessons on Thursdays

5.       Visits to Léon; the singing tramp; Emma starts to fiddle the accounts

6.       Emma becomes noticeably anxious; debts spiral out of control

7.       Emma begs for money from several people

8.       Rodolphe cannot help; she swallows arsenic; her death

9.       Emma lies in state

10.   The funeral

11.   Charles finds letter; his death

Characters

Emma Bovary

Emma is the novel's protagonist and is the main source of the novel's title (Charles's mother and his former wife are also referred to as Madame Bovary, while their daughter remains Mademoiselle Bovary). She has a highly romanticized view of the world and craves beauty, wealth, passion, and high society. It is the disparity between these romantic ideals and the realities of her country life that drive most of the novel, most notably leading her into two extramarital love affairs as well as causing her to accrue an insurmountable amount of debt that eventually leads to her suicide.

Charles Bovary

Emma's husband, Charles Bovary, is a very simple and common man. He is a country doctor by profession, but is, as in everything else, not very good at it. He is in fact not qualified enough to be termed a doctor, but is instead an officier de santé, or health officer. Charles adores his wife and finds her faultless, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. He never suspects her affairs and gives her complete control over his finances, thereby securing his own ruin. Despite Charles's complete devotion to Emma, she despises him as he is the epitome of all that is dull and common.

Rodolphe Boulanger

Rodolphe is a wealthy local man who seduces Emma as one more addition to a long string of mistresses. Though occasionally charmed by Emma, Rodolphe feels little true emotion towards her. As Emma becomes more and more desperate, Rodolphe loses interest and worries about her lack of caution. After his decision to escape with Emma he resigns and feels unable to handle it especially with the existence of her new daughter, Berthe.

Léon Dupuis

Léon is a clerk who has an affair with Madame Emma Bovary. He is the second person Emma has an affair with, after Rodolphe Boulanger.

Monsieur Lheureux

A manipulative and sly merchant who continually convinces people in Yonville to buy goods on credit and borrow money from him. Having led many small businesspeople into financial ruin to support his own business ambitions, Lheureux lends money to Charles and plays Emma masterfully, leading the Bovarys so far into debt as to cause their financial ruin and Emma's subsequent suicide.

Monsieur Homais

Monsieur Homais is the town pharmacist. He is vehemently anti-clerical and an atheist. He also practices medicine without a license, and although he pretends to be Charles Bovary's best friend, he actively undermines Bovary's medical practice by luring away his patients and by setting Charles up to attempt a difficult surgery, which fails and destroys Charles's professional credibility in Yonville.

Madame Homais

The wife of Monsieur Homais, Madame Homais is a simple woman whose life revolves around her husband and four children.

Justin

Monsieur Homais' apprentice and second cousin. He had been taken into the house from charity and was useful at the same time as a servant. At one point he steals the key to the medical supply room, and is tricked by Emma into opening a container of arsenic so she can kill some rats keeping her awake. She however eats the arsenic herself.

* * * * *

Table of Contents

Madame Bovary (Illustrated)

About Author

Preface (About the Book)

Table of Contents

Part I

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Part II

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Part III

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

MADAME BOVARY

By Gustave Flaubert

Translated from the French by Eleanor Marx-Aveling

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 publication. Reading over your magnificent defence, my work has acquired for myself, as it were, an unexpected authority.

Accept, then, here, the homage of my gratitude, which, how great soever it is, will never attain the height of your eloquence and your devotion.

Gustave Flaubert, Paris, 12 April 1857


MADAME BOVARY

Part I

Chapter One

We were in class when the head-master came in, followed by a new fellow, not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk. Those who had been asleep woke up, and every one rose as if just surprised at his work.

The head-master made a sign to us to sit down. Then, turning to the class-master, he said to him in a low voice—

Monsieur Roger, here is a pupil whom I recommend to your care; he'll be in the second. If his work and conduct are satisfactory, he will go into one of the upper classes, as becomes his age.

The new fellow, standing in the corner behind the door so that he could hardly be seen, was a country lad of about fifteen, and taller than any of us. His hair was cut square on his forehead like a village chorister's; he looked reliable, but very ill at ease. Although he was not broad-shouldered, his short school jacket of green cloth with black buttons must have been tight about the arm-holes, and showed at the opening of the cuffs red wrists accustomed to being bare. His legs, in blue stockings, looked out from beneath yellow trousers, drawn tight by braces, He wore stout, ill-cleaned, hob-nailed boots.

We began repeating the lesson. He listened with all his ears, as attentive as if at a sermon, not daring even to cross his legs or lean on his elbow; and when at two o'clock the bell rang, the master was obliged to tell him to fall into line with the rest of us.

When we came back to work, we were in the habit of throwing our caps on the ground so as to have our hands more free; we used from the door to toss them under the form, so that they hit against the wall and made a lot of dust: it was the thing.

But, whether he had not noticed the trick, or did not dare to attempt it, the new fellow, was still holding his cap on his knees even after prayers were over. It was one of those head-gears of composite order, in which we can find traces of the bearskin, shako, billycock hat, sealskin cap, and cotton night-cap; one of those poor things, in fine, whose dumb ugliness has depths of expression, like an imbecile's face. Oval, stiffened with whalebone, it began with three round knobs; then came in succession lozenges of velvet and rabbit-skin separated by a red band; after that a sort of bag that ended in a cardboard polygon covered with complicated braiding, from which hung, at the end of a long thin cord, small twisted gold threads in the manner of a tassel. The cap was new; its peak shone.

Rise, said the master.

He stood up; his cap fell. The whole class began to laugh. He stooped to pick it up. A neighbor knocked it down again with his elbow; he picked it up once more.

Get rid of your helmet, said the master, who was a bit of a wag.

There was a burst of laughter from the boys, which so thoroughly put the poor lad out of countenance that he did not know whether to keep his cap in his hand, leave it on the ground, or put it on his head. He sat down again and placed it on his knee.

Rise, repeated the master, and tell me your name.

The new boy articulated in a stammering voice an unintelligible name.

Again!

The same sputtering of syllables was heard, drowned by the tittering of the class.

Louder! cried the master; louder!

The new fellow then took a supreme resolution, opened an inordinately large mouth, and shouted at the top of his voice as if calling someone in the word Charbovari.

A hubbub broke out, rose in crescendo with bursts of shrill voices (they yelled, barked, stamped, repeated Charbovari! Charbovari), then died away into single notes, growing quieter only with great difficulty, and now and again suddenly recommencing along the line of a form whence rose here and there, like a damp cracker going off, a stifled laugh.

However, amid a rain of impositions, order was gradually re-established in the class; and the master having succeeded in catching the name of Charles Bovary, having had it dictated to him, spelt out, and re-read, at once ordered the poor devil to go and sit down on the punishment form at the foot of the master's desk. He got up, but before going hesitated.

What are you looking for? asked the master.

My c-a-p, timidly said the new fellow, casting troubled looks round him.

Five hundred lines for all the class! shouted in a furious voice stopped, like the Quos ego*, a fresh outburst. Silence! continued the master indignantly, wiping his brow with his handkerchief, which he had just taken from his cap. As to you, 'new boy,' you will conjugate 'ridiculus sum'** twenty times.

Then, in a gentler tone, Come, you'll find your cap again; it hasn't been stolen.

*A quotation from the Aeneid signifying a threat.

**I am ridiculous.

Quiet was restored. Heads bent over desks, and the new fellow remained for two hours in an exemplary attitude, although from time to time some paper pellet flipped from the tip of a pen came bang in his face. But he wiped his face with one hand and continued motionless, his eyes lowered.

In the evening, at preparation, he pulled out his pens from his desk, arranged his small belongings, and carefully ruled his paper. We saw him working conscientiously, looking up every word in the dictionary, and taking the greatest pains. Thanks, no doubt, to the willingness he showed, he had not to go down to the class below. But though he knew his rules passably, he had little finish in composition. It was the cure of his village who had taught him his first Latin; his parents, from motives of economy, having sent him to school as late as possible.

His father, Monsieur Charles Denis Bartolome Bovary, retired assistant-surgeon-major, compromised about 1812 in certain conscription scandals, and forced at this time to leave the service, had taken advantage of his fine figure to get hold of a dowry of sixty thousand francs that offered in the person of a hosier's daughter who had fallen in love with his good looks. A fine man, a great talker, making his spurs ring as he walked, wearing whiskers that ran into his moustache, his fingers always garnished with rings and dressed in loud colours, he had the dash of a military man with the easy go of a commercial traveller.

Once married, he lived for three or four years on his wife's fortune, dining well, rising late, smoking long porcelain pipes, not coming in at night till after the theatre, and haunting cafes. The father-in-law died, leaving little; he was indignant at this, went in for the business, lost some money in it, then retired to the country, where he thought he would make money.

But, as he knew no more about farming than calico, as he rode his horses instead of sending them to plough, drank his cider in bottle instead of selling it in cask, ate the finest poultry in his farmyard, and greased his hunting-boots with the fat of his pigs, he was not long in finding out that he would do better to give up all speculation.

For two hundred francs a year he managed to live on the border of the provinces of Caux and Picardy, in a kind of place half farm, half private house; and here, soured, eaten up with regrets, cursing his luck, jealous of everyone, he shut himself up at the age of forty-five, sick of men, he said, and determined to live at peace.

His wife had adored him once on a time; she had bored him with a thousand servilities that had only estranged him the more. Lively once, expansive and affectionate, in growing older she had become (after the fashion of wine that, exposed to air, turns to vinegar) ill-tempered, grumbling, irritable. She had suffered so much without complaint at first, until she had seem him going after all the village drabs, and until a score of bad houses sent him back to her at night, weary, stinking drunk. Then her pride revolted. After that she was silent, burying her anger in a dumb stoicism that she maintained till her death. She was constantly going about looking after business matters. She called on the lawyers, the president, remembered when bills fell due, got them renewed, and at home ironed, sewed, washed, looked after the workmen, paid the accounts, while he, troubling himself about nothing, eternally besotted in sleepy sulkiness, whence he only roused himself to say disagreeable things to her, sat smoking by the fire and spitting into the cinders.

When she had a child, it had to be sent out to nurse. When he came home, the lad was spoilt as if he were a prince. His mother stuffed him with jam; his father let him run about barefoot, and, playing the philosopher, even said he might as well go about quite naked like the young of animals. As opposed to the maternal ideas, he had a certain virile idea of childhood on which he sought to mould his son, wishing him to be brought up hardily, like a Spartan, to give him a strong constitution. He sent him to bed without any fire, taught him to drink off large draughts of rum and to jeer at religious processions. But, peaceable by nature, the lad answered only poorly to his notions. His mother always kept him near her; she cut out cardboard for him, told him tales, entertained him with endless monologues full of melancholy gaiety and charming nonsense. In her life's isolation she centered on the child's head all her shattered, broken little vanities. She dreamed of high station; she already saw him, tall, handsome, clever, settled as an engineer or in the law. She taught him to read, and even, on an old piano, she had taught him two or three little songs. But to all this Monsieur Bovary, caring little for letters, said, It was not worth while. Would they ever have the means to send him to a public school, to buy him a practice, or start him in business? Besides, with cheek a man always gets on in the world. Madame Bovary bit her lips, and the child knocked about the village.

He went after the labourers, drove away with clods of earth the ravens that were flying about. He ate blackberries along the hedges, minded the geese with a long switch, went haymaking during harvest, ran about in the woods, played hop-scotch under the church porch on rainy days, and at great fetes begged the beadle to let him toll the bells, that he might hang all his weight on the long rope and feel himself borne upward by it in its swing. Meanwhile he grew like an oak; he was strong on hand, fresh of colour.

When he was twelve years old his mother had her own way; he began lessons. The cure took him in hand; but the lessons were so short and irregular that they could not be of much use. They were given at spare moments in the sacristy, standing up, hurriedly, between a baptism and a burial; or else the cure, if he had not to go out, sent for his pupil after the Angelus*. They went up to his room and settled down; the flies and moths fluttered round the candle. It was close, the child fell asleep, and the good man, beginning to doze with his hands on his stomach, was soon snoring with his mouth wide open. On other occasions, when Monsieur le Cure, on his way back after administering the viaticum to some sick person in the neighbourhood, caught sight of Charles playing about the fields, he called him, lectured him for a quarter of an hour and took advantage of the occasion to make him conjugate his verb at the foot of a tree. The rain interrupted them or an acquaintance passed. All the same he was always pleased with him, and even said the young man had a very good memory.

*A devotion said at morning, noon, and evening, at the sound

of a bell. Here, the evening prayer.

Charles could not go on like this. Madame Bovary took strong steps. Ashamed, or rather tired out, Monsieur Bovary gave in without a struggle, and they waited one year longer, so that the lad should take his first communion.

Six months more passed, and the year after Charles was finally sent to school at Rouen, where his father took him towards the end of October, at the time of the St. Romain fair.

It would now be impossible for any of us to remember anything about him. He was a youth of even temperament, who played in playtime, worked in school-hours, was attentive in class, slept well in the dormitory, and ate well in the refectory. He had in loco parentis* a wholesale ironmonger in the Rue Ganterie, who took him out once a month on Sundays after his shop was shut, sent him for a walk on the quay to look at the boats, and then brought him back to college at seven o'clock before supper. Every Thursday evening he wrote a long letter to his mother with red ink and three wafers; then he went over his history note-books, or read an old volume of Anarchasis that was knocking about the study. When he went for walks he talked to the servant, who, like himself, came from the country.

*In place of a parent.

By dint of hard work he kept always about the middle of the class; once even he got a certificate in natural history. But at the end of his third year his parents withdrew him from the school to make him study medicine, convinced that he could even take his degree by himself.

His mother chose a room for him on the fourth floor of a dyer's she knew, overlooking the Eau-de-Robec. She made arrangements for his board, got him furniture, table and two chairs, sent home for an old cherry-tree bedstead, and bought besides a small cast-iron stove with the supply of wood that was to warm the poor child.

Then at the end of a week she departed, after a thousand injunctions to be good now that he was going to be left to himself.

The syllabus that he read on the notice-board stunned him; lectures on anatomy, lectures on pathology, lectures on physiology, lectures on pharmacy, lectures on botany and clinical medicine, and therapeutics, without counting hygiene and materia medica—all names of whose etymologies he was ignorant, and that were to him as so many doors to sanctuaries filled with magnificent darkness.

He understood nothing of it all; it was all very well to listen—he did not follow. Still he worked; he had bound note-books, he attended all the courses, never missed a single lecture. He did his little daily task like a mill-horse, who goes round and round with his eyes bandaged, not knowing what work he is doing.

To spare him expense his mother sent him every week by the carrier a piece of veal baked in the oven, with which he lunched when he came back from the hospital, while he sat kicking his feet against the wall. After this he had to run off to lectures, to the operation-room, to the hospital, and return to his home at the other end of the town. In the evening, after the poor dinner of his landlord, he went back to his room and set to work again in his wet clothes, which smoked as he sat in front of the hot stove.

On the fine summer evenings, at the time when the close streets are empty, when the servants are playing shuttle-cock at the doors, he opened his window and leaned out. The river, that makes of this quarter of Rouen a wretched little Venice, flowed beneath him, between the bridges and the railings, yellow, violet, or blue. Working men, kneeling on the banks, washed their bare arms in the water. On poles projecting from the attics, skeins of cotton were drying in the air. Opposite, beyond the roots spread the pure heaven with the red sun setting. How pleasant it must be at home! How fresh under the beech-tree! And he expanded his nostrils to breathe in the sweet odours of the country which did not reach him.

He grew thin, his figure became taller, his face took a saddened look that made it nearly interesting. Naturally, through indifference, he abandoned all the resolutions he had made. Once he missed a lecture; the next day all the lectures; and, enjoying his idleness, little by little, he gave up work altogether. He got into the habit of going to the public-house, and had a passion for dominoes. To shut himself up every evening in the dirty public room, to push about on marble tables the small sheep bones with black dots, seemed to him a fine proof of his freedom, which raised him in his own esteem. It was beginning to see life, the sweetness of stolen pleasures; and when he entered, he put his hand on the door-handle with a joy almost sensual. Then many things hidden within him came out; he learnt couplets by heart and sang them to his boon companions, became enthusiastic about Beranger, learnt how to make punch, and, finally, how to make love.

Thanks to these preparatory labours, he failed completely in his examination for an ordinary degree. He was expected home the same night to celebrate his success. He started on foot, stopped at the beginning of the village, sent for his mother, and told her all. She excused him, threw the blame of his failure on the injustice of the examiners, encouraged him a little, and took upon herself to set matters straight. It was only five years later that Monsieur Bovary knew the truth; it was old then, and he accepted it. Moreover, he could not believe that a man born of him could be a fool.

So Charles set to work again and crammed for his examination, ceaselessly learning all the old questions by heart. He passed pretty well.

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  • (4/5)
    I have been reading Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert by installments from Daily Lit since November, 2018. I was very happy to reach the end of this book although it certainly held my attention throughout the reading, but there was an inevitable sense of doom building. The story, set in 1840’s Normandy, is of a doctor’s unhappy and unfaithful wife. I found this a very sad tale, as to me, it was obvious that Emma was married to a dull man and had no outlet available for her other than adultery. Women of a certain class did not work, or really have much to occupy their time, other than oversee the servants. Emma Bovary was a woman of passion, in fact shopping excited her every bit as much as sex. Yes, she was beautiful, somewhat selfish and immature but I still felt a great deal of sympathy for her. It was hard not to emphasize with a woman whose happiness was so out of tune with her situation.Did I have sympathy for her husband, Charles, yes, indeed. He tried to provide Emma with what he thought he wanted and she carefully never revealed her unhappiness in the life he provided her. Charles was not the brightest of men, he was quiet and easily satisfied, didn’t have a romantic bone in his body and apparently never questioned their life or situation until it was too late. The Boyarys were a mismatched couple and the marriage, right from the start seemed doomed to failure.Flaubert has written an excellent morality tale that still stands today. Our happiness does not rely on anyone or anything other than ourselves. Emma Bovary paid a heavy price for her longings to escape the caged life that she lead and this book reminds me that woman can still fall into the same patterns as Emma Bovary even though we have more choices today in our search for a fulfilling life.
  • (3/5)
    Written in 1857. Emma, a doctor's wife, is lonely and bored and has affairs with Rodolphe and Léon which are both ill-fated. In her disillusionment she has a taste of arsenic with the usual outcome. Okay, but showing it's age.
  • (4/5)
    The kind of book that uses "spaded" as a transitive verb and it works. (How to judge classics in translation? The voice is so far from Davis' own work (as well as her Proust) that one assumes the translation is impeccable. What struck me most was how idiotic, provincial, and fixed the characters were regarded by the narrative voice. Still, pretty good for a first novel circa 1856. The structure is, of course, flawless. Worth it for the opening scene of poor Bovary in school.)
  • (5/5)
    English translation by Merloyd Lawrence. Fantastique.
  • (3/5)
    Slap begin, met oninteressante Charles als hoofdfiguur. Pas vaart na ontmoeting met Emma. Geleidelijke opbouw van het thema van de door romantische ideeën tot waanzin gedreven vrouw. Nogal vrijmoedige acties voor die tijd. Prachtige stijl: het midden houdend tussen klinisch-realisme en romantische lyriek. Bitter einde, puur cynisme. Zeer grote roman, vooral door beeldkracht, minder door verhaal en visie.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant realism with characters throughout who are spiteful and hard to watch,
  • (4/5)
    You never know exactly what you are going to get into when you read older classics – you know, the ones from the 18th and 19th centuries, the ones that everyone tells you should be read, the ones that everyone talks about as great but have never really read. As you go back into those olden times, you far too often find stilted grammar, outdated approaches, descriptions that no longer resonate. I won't give you examples but, I've run into them, you've run into them, we've all run into them – and then wanted to run away.Such is not the case with Madame Bovary. Maybe it is just the translation I read (and any book from another language requires the right translation), but I was instantly transported into this story. I quickly cared about the characters and was quite happy to go along with them on their lives.The plot, like so many others in classical literature, can be found anywhere. Suffice to say we follow the life of Madame Bovary (to be honest, the life of her husband – Charles). She is not happy with what life has given her (in spite of the constant efforts of her husband), and this only leads to her worsening her own situation.To be honest, it would be very easy to hate this book based on how dislikable Bovary is. Yet, the story is so compelling the reader watches it in the same fascination one saves for train wrecks.While some classical literature has made me squeamish at the thought of pursuing more, this book strengthens my resolve.
  • (5/5)
    I was assigned this in high school--and remember being decidedly unimpressed--bored. Well, I don't think I can blame that on the translation, I just think that there are some books you're incapable of appreciating, if not because you're too young, then maybe because you just haven't read enough. OK, and probably because you're too young at sixteen to really empathize with Emma and her disappointed dreams. She's a female Don Quixote driven to her ruin by reading too many romance novels. Or so it seems.This time around my magpie soul was entranced by the shiny prose. Even in translation (or maybe in this translation by Eleanor Marx Aveling) I was struck by the beautiful writing. Apparently some contemporaries complained of too much description--imagine that--in the 19th century a novel known for its "excessive details." I didn't feel that way--maybe some familiarity with Victorian verbosity helps. But I felt the descriptions weren't mere bagatelle but really did reveal character. And I was surprised at the sensuality of the prose:As it was empty she bent back to drink, her head thrown back, her lips pouting, her neck straining. She laughed at getting none of it, while with the tip of her tongue passing between her small teeth she licked drop by drop the bottom of her glass.ANDIt was the first time that Emma had heard such words addressed to her and her pride unfolded languidly in the warmth of this language, like someone stretching in a warm bath.Or this implied description of sex:From time to time the coachman, on his box cast despairing eyes at the public-houses. He could not understand what furious desire for locomotion urged these individuals never to wish to stop. He tried to now and then, and at once exclamations of anger burst forth behind him. Then he lashed his perspiring jades afresh, but indifferent to their jolting, running up against things here and there, not caring if he did, demoralised, and almost weeping with thirst, fatigue, and depression.And on the harbour, in the midst of the drays and casks, and in the streets, at the corners, the good folk opened large wonder-stricken eyes at this sight, so extraordinary in the provinces, a cab with blinds drawn, and which appeared thus constantly shut more closely than a tomb, and tossing about like a vessel.Once in the middle of the day, in the open country, just as the sun beat most fiercely against the old plated lanterns, a bared hand passed beneath the small blinds of yellow canvas, and threw out some scraps of paper that scattered in the wind, and farther off lighted like white butterflies on a field of red clover all in bloom.I know, by today's standards tame. But this is set in the 1840s and was first published in serialized form in 1856. Maybe the French were less restrained, but in England it's been claimed they were covering the legs of tables because for them to be bare was seen as indecent. The other complaint of contemporaries according to the book's introduction was Flaubert's "excessive distance"--his ironic tone. From what I gather contemporaries were disconcerted he didn't comment more in the narrative and explicitly condemn Emma. Yet Flaubert never struck me as cold. I remember as a teen dismissing Emma as a rather silly woman. This time around I felt a lot more sympathy for her--even when she does act like an idiot. Which doesn't rule out feeling sympathy for her wronged husband, either. Interestingly, Flaubert begins and ends with poor Charles Bovary. It's an unsparing, unsentimental novel, but not without a sense of intimacy and even painful empathy.
  • (5/5)
    When I was first reading Madame Bovary, I absolutely hated it. I don't mean that it filled me with feelings of disgust or anything like that; I just didn't care about anything that was happening at all. It was tedious and 'bleah,' and I was mostly reading it so that when I reached the end I could say that I'd done it. Also, I suspect that the translation that I read is not the best.But then, at exactly half-way through the book, things started happening and I actually took an interest in them. The first half took me several months of occasionally picking up the book to get through, a few pages at a time. I blazed through the second half of the book in a couple days.Without any detailed spoilers, I will describe it thus: there is a complete lack of sympathy but plenty of misbehavior, dissolution, ruination, desperation, woe, and lingering death followed by more ruination. I am apparently some sort of terrible person, because I enjoyed the h**l out of it. “More, more! Feed me your delicious despair! Omnomnomnomnom!” I'm glad that this edition had an afterward instead of a forward: introductions to classic books have a tendency to ruin the story for you if you don't already know it. (I didn't.)
  • (3/5)
    BkC153) Flaubert, Gustave, [MADAME BOVARY] (tr. Lydia Davis): Classic novel, deathless. Sorta like a literary zombie. Rating: 3* of fiveThe Book Description: As if one is really necessary. Well, here it is:A literary event: one of the world's most celebrated novels, in a magnificent new translation.Seven years ago, Lydia Davis brought us an award-winning, rapturously reviewed new translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way that was hailed as "clear and true to the music of the original" (Los Angeles Times) and "a work of creation in its own right" (Claire Messud, Newsday). Now she turns her gifts to the book that redefined the novel as an art form.Emma Bovary is the original desperate housewife. Beautiful but bored, she is married to the provincial doctor Charles Bovary yet harbors dreams of an elegant and passionate life. Escaping into sentimental novels, she finds her fantasies dashed by the tedium of her days. Motherhood proves to be a burden; religion is only a brief distraction. In an effort to make her life everything she believes it should be, she spends lavishly on clothes and on her home and embarks on two disappointing affairs. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, Emma takes drastic action with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter. When published in 1857, Madame Bovary was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for its heroine. Today the novel is considered the first masterpiece of realist fiction. Flaubert sought to tell the story objectively, without romanticizing or moralizing (hence the uproar surrounding its publication), but whereas he was famously fastidious about his literary style, many of the English versions seem to tell the story in their own style. In this landmark translation, Lydia Davis honors the nuances and particulars of a style that has long beguiled readers of French, giving new life in English to Flaubert's masterwork. My Review: Realism à la Balzac gets a hefty infusion of Romanticism. The novel will always be very important for this reason. It was Flaubert's trial for obscenity, due to his authorial refusal to explicitly condemn Emma Bovary for adultery, that opened the floodgates of “immoral” realistic fiction. If anyone needs any further reason to read the book, it's also got some juicy Faustian bargaining in it. Plus everybody dies. (Srsly how can anything about this famous book be a spoiler? Don't complain to me about it.)So the review is really about this translation by Lydia Davis. She's alleged to have done a fabulous, marvelous job.Uh huh.Then, in sudden tenderness and discouragement, Charles turned to his wife, saying:“Kiss me, my dear!”“Leave me alone!” she said, red with anger.“What is it? What is it?” he said, stupefied. “Calm yourself! Don't be upset!...You know how much I love you!...Come to me!”“Stop!” she shouted with a terrible look. (Part II, ch.8)Literal translation isn't always the best. Can you, like me, hear the nails and smell the sawdust as this wooden edifice is erected? Can you, like me, feel the uncertain sway of the uneven floorboards as we ascend ever farther up Flaubert's towering if creaky scaffolding?A well-furnished mind has Bovary in it. Unless you want to slug through the mannered 19th-century French, or have a high tolerance for sawdusty English prose, I'd say do the Cliffs Notes and call it good.
  • (3/5)
    What an incredibly unpleasant woman! I usually have nothing against an unlikeable protagonist, as they often make for interesting reading subjects, but this Madame Bovary had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Fickle, vain, selfish, materialistic, disloyal, unappreciative and self-delusional as she was, I kept waiting for something truly horrible to happen, other than her habitual small hypocritical cruelties to her husband and her constant infidelity. (slight spoiler here) Her tragic end was too long in coming and even there, she somehow didn't offer satisfaction. (end of spoiler) She is bored with her life, married to a husband who idolizes her but offers little intellectual or romantic stimulation, she is bored with her little daughter and her perfect little bourgeois home, even as her husband puts no restriction on her spending so she can decorate it with every possible amenity she might desire. She is bored with reading... bored with life. The kind of woman who, even were she to live in this modern world and have all the choices she might desire, would probably still marry a boring rich man so she could go right on being bored and insufferable. I only rated this book with three stars because it IS Flaubert who writes beautifully of course, but I was bored out of my mind throughout. Maybe it's catching?
  • (3/5)
    I am really enjoying diving into these books with only whatever vague notions about them I have picked up over the years. What I knew about Madame Bovary when I started it: she has an affair? So I was a little thrown when the book started with some boy named Charles who was going to school and being made fun of, and we followed him on to being a not-very-good student and a not-very-confident doctor. He marries a woman chosen by his mother, but although both of them have the same name, neither his mother nor this wife are the Madame Bovary. The wife is a widow who is supposed to be rich, but she is older and not very attractive. Finally, when Charles attends to a man on his farm and meets the man's daughter Emma, I realize she will become the title Madame Bovary.And so she does, after the widow dies and a decent amount of time has passed. Emma is beautiful and vivacious, and positive that married life will be incredibly romantic, just like in the novels. Soon, she realizes that she is not exactly swept away by a great love for Charles. She finds herself attracted to a young man in their town, and they do that dance of wondering if the other one is interested, but no one will come out and say it because it would be unseemly. Eventually, he leaves town. Emma tries devoting herself to being the best wife (and mother, there is a child in the book who is clearly not on Emma's radar and therefore not really on ours), but she finds that she now not only doesn't have that all-consuming love for Charles, she kind of can't stand him. What to do, what to do? Enter Rodolphe, who we are introduced to as a serial seducer. At this point, I started calling Emma "poor, stupid Madame Bovary." Of course, she falls for him. Of course, he is not nearly as committed as she is. And it doesn't end well for her. There's a lot more plot after that, but I really want to talk about what the book is saying. Two things stood out to me. One: adultery is just as boring as marriage if you carry it on long enough. Two: adultery is bad, but buying on credit is worse. I enjoyed the read, although the last 10% was sort of pointless to me. Some quotes:"Charles's conversation was commonplace as a street pavement, and everyone's ideas trooped through it in their everyday garb, without exciting emotion, laughter, or thought.""But the disparaging of those we love always alienates us from them to some extent. We must not touch our idols; the gilt sticks to our fingers.""Besides, speech is a rolling-mill that always thins out the sentiment."
  • (3/5)
    I felt obligated to read this novel since I had a used copy lying around free for the taking and Nabokov had praised it so highly, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to it. Because I had heard that the eponym was pretty unsympathetic, and the course of the plot was dreary and depressing. Well, it turns out I didn't hear wrong: Emma is horrible and nothing good happens for all 400 pages of it - but I hadn't been told the most important thing about the book, which is that it's a black comedy. The incredible pettiness and stupidity of all of the characters' (not just Emma's) self absorption and the way they hurtle towards their own ruin as if filled with zeal for the prospect make it an entertaining spectacle. An ironic anti-spectacle as everything about their fuckups is unrelievedly trite and banal. It's like watching a trainwreck, and then watching someone get the bright idea of clearing the wreckage from the tracks by ramming another train into them, and then following through on that idea by sending two trains one from each side. It's glorious in it's utter lack of gloriousness.I'm going to dock it a star though because in my current mood I really could have done with something a little more upbeat.
  • (5/5)
    I'm still working out a review in my head, but for now: this book is perfect.
  • (2/5)
    Clearly the only way I can get myself to read one of the books in my continually growing to-be-read pile is for there to be a movie coming out. Get on it Hollywood, there are about 60 books I still need to get through.

    Disclaimers: I read a translation due to my French being nonexistent, but the original is supposed to be exquisite. I don't have to warn about spoilers in a review about something published in 1856, do I?

    Madame Bovary is one of those classics in which the elements that were once fresh and shocking are now cliched. Emma Bovary is unhappily married to a devoted but dull country doctor, Charles. Bored with her duties as a wife and mother, she fantasizes about a life full of romance and pleasure, similar to what she's read about in popular novels. Emma futilely chases these dreams by having love affairs and buying expensive items on credit. Both her lovers grow tired of her, and her debts bring about her husband's ruin. Emma swallows arsenic and dies an excruciating death.

    It's said that Gustave Flaubert does not judge Emma, and in fact that's partially why the book was banned and he landed in an obscenity trial. But I don't think I agree with that. Isn't making your character a silly, shallow woman and then having her downfall stem from being silly and shallow pretty judgy in of itself? I've read a lot of books about doomed women and unlike most of them, Emma has no redeeming features. In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy seemed to actually like his heroine. I did not not get that feeling in Madame Bovary.
  • (4/5)
    I did not read this version I read a 'free' Public domain kindle book. It was a great version by Eleanor Marx-Aveling. You don't need to buy it, this version is great, but you will need a device to read it on!
  • (3/5)
    I read this for a book club. I have to admit that I'm not sure I see why it has received all this acclaim. There were pages that I just had to force myself to wade through. That being said, I can see for it's time that it was quite a thriller. The writing style is just so much different than what we as readers of most modern novels are accustomed to.I never felt any kind of sympathy for Emma Bovary, but yet I do believe she is representative of those individuals who are always looking outward to something or someone else to make them happy. Manners, customs, fashions, lifestyles have changed, but there are still plenty of Emma Bovarys today. Good literature lets us see human nature at its best or at its worst; this book does that.As the saying goes, "So many books, so little time" -- if you have lots of time, read this. However, if there's only so much time, there are many more modern novels that will be easier to read and relate to.
  • (3/5)
    I just finished Madame Bovary. Ok, I admit that I picked up this book because(according to Wikipedia!) a poll of modern authors listed this as the 2nd most important novel ever written. I'd like to have a conversation with whoever took that poll!! Does the book give an important social commentary about the lives of women? Yes. Is the book interesting? Uh, maybe. Was it earth shattering and changed my view of the world? No. But, I did find the audiobook enjoyable. Donada Peters does a wonderful job in the narration. Maybe I'm a bit jaded because I recently finished Anna Karenina and The House of Mirth - and I loved both books, but they also deal with a similar topic.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant book.

    Flaubert's hatred of the bourgeois really shines through in his portrayal of provincial France, with Charles' meekness and his willing obliviousness of reality, and Emma's constant search for happiness which inevitably leads her to ruin.

    You want to detest them both for their flaws; yet at the same time you realize that they're both human beings and operating from very real perspectives, keeping with Flaubert's ideas on limiting the author's influence.
  • (5/5)
    Madame Bovary has been on my list of books to read for decades, but for various reasons I always made other choices. Then my wife decided to learn French and as part of that process read the novel in its original language. I decided to finally pick up this book because it would be fun to discuss when we were both done. I read an English translation by Eleanor Marx Aveling who was one of the daughters of Karl Marx and, following in her father's footsteps, a socialist. I didn't know Marx's background at the time I read the book, but find it interesting, since the results of Emma's decision to pursue a life of self indulgence seem to exemplify the horrors that can happen to people who seek self gratification. In other words, if you believe “greed is good” you probably won't like this book.I read somewhere that Madame Bovary along with Tolstoy's Anna Karenina are the two greatest “adultery” novels ever written. I'm not sure how anyone can make a statement like that, since so many novels have been written about adultery. But there is definitely a connection between these two works. Anna, however, is somewhat sympathetic, being drawn to a single lover she can't resist. On the other hand, Emma's true love seems to be herself. Here's a section from the book when Emma is sitting at an agricultural fair with Rodolphe, the man she's currently attracted to, and reflecting on all the men in her life – except, of course, her husband.Then a faintness came over her; she recalled the Viscount who had waltzed with her at Vaubyessard, and his beard exhaled like this air an odour of vanilla and citron, and mechanically she half-closed her eyes the better to breathe it in. But in making this movement, as she leant back in her chair, she saw in the distance, right on the line of the horizon, the old diligence, the "Hirondelle," that was slowly descending the hill of Leux, dragging after it a long trail of dust. It was in this yellow carriage that Leon had so often come back to her, and by this route down there that he had gone for ever. She fancied she saw him opposite at his windows; then all grew confused; clouds gathered; it seemed to her that she was again turning in the waltz under the light of the lustres on the arm of the Viscount, and that Leon was not far away, that he was coming; and yet all the time she was conscious of the scent of Rodolphe's head by her side. This sweetness of sensation pierced through her old desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust of wind, eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to drink in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took off her gloves, she wiped her hands, then fanned her face with her handkerchief, while athwart the throbbing of her temples she heard the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councillor intoning his phrases. He said—"Continue, persevere; listen neither to the suggestions of routine, nor to the over-hasty councils of a rash empiricism.I loved the process of following Emma Bovary as she made selfish decisions, rationalized her behavior, and paid the consequences. There are many reasons to read Madame Bovary, including its influence on later novelists, but it is the careful, detailed exploration of Emma's character that make this novel a masterpiece.Steve Lindahl – Author of White Horse Regressions and Motherless Soul
  • (1/5)
    I found Emma Bovary to be a most unsympathetic character. I finished it, but not because I cared what happened
  • (5/5)
    Flaubert is flawless as a writer. It was Nabokov in his tome on Russian Literature which led me to discover him.
    This is world reknowned famous story of the tragic lives of Madame Bovary and her husband Mousier Bovary, a double tragedy where unbeknowns to either of them their losses are reflected in the ways their lives end up in a state of tragic self-destruction. Well worth the read and I will definitely read more Flaubert.
  • (1/5)
    I could not finish this book. I simply despised the main character.
  • (2/5)
    What a selfish, charmless woman. There is nothing about her to recommend her.
  • (3/5)
    Perhaps I've been reading too much classic literature lately, but I didn't find Madame Bovary all that special -- it probably didn't help that I read another novel with an affair of a similar nature in it, Anna Karenina, just now. In terms of characters, I found it quite realistic: I could believe in all of the characters. Emma, unable to find any satisfaction, quickly getting bored; Charles, a little dense, boring, loving; all the more minor characters. The descriptions of their lives felt realistic, too. But I found it hard to get absorbed in the story: probably because, despite recognising her as a well-written, realistic character, I don't identify with Emma Bovary at all.
  • (5/5)
    I had attempted this book a couple year ago, but was confounded by a bad translation. Then I heard about Lydia Davis's new, highly touted translation through the New York Times book review podcast. It's everything they say. Beautifully done.

    This novel is so psychologically realistic, the result of such careful observation of human behavior, that it's amazing it came out in the mid-nineteenth century. Not only that, but it's an early feminist novel!

    Emma Roualt is a farm girl who has been given a good convent education by her father. She longs for the finer things in life. Music, art, romance, the company of cultured people. She ends up marrying Charles Bovary, a barely competent physician, and a dull man in the bargain. With him she relocates to a small town where everybody knows everybody, has a child, and of course, becomes very unhappy.

    Her unhappiness comes not only from her dissatisfaction with her dull, unambitious husband and the life they share, but also from her awareness of the lack of freedom experienced by women in her society. Her sadness allows to to place her hopes for a better life successively, in two adulterous affairs. Rodolphe, the gentleman farmer, has ignoble intentions toward her from the start. Leon, the young law clerk, is too immature to know what he wants.

    Serving as sort of a Greek chorus is Homais, the apothecary, who is the Bovarys' next door neighbor. He's a pompous twit who has a number of comic monologues.

    In order to finance the tissue of lies she's concocted to carry on her affairs, Emma makes an association with a dry goods merchant who plays with her like a fish on a line, loaning her sums of money and coaxing her to sign promissory notes which eventually come due.

    The ending of the book is very dark, but realistic.
  • (5/5)
    somewhere a reviewer called it a 'buddhist morality tale on the futility of desire' which pretty much sums it up for me.
  • (2/5)
    It's been a few years since I read this book, but I remember thinking how pathetic Ms. Bovary was. I could not develop any sympathy for her whatsoever and thought she was one of those who thought love was about first kisses and butterflies in the stomach. Perhaps she watched too many soap operas. Anyway, not a female character in literature I would aspire to be. Read Little Women or some Jane Austen.
  • (2/5)
    I hated this book when it was assigned to me my senior year of high school. Assuming I'd changed since then, I gave it another go. Turns out I had good sense as an 18-year-old. I'm putting it down after 170 unsatisfying pages.
  • (4/5)
    This book was a cyncial summary of the French culture and classes of the time. Despite it being written long ago, the basic themes can still apply to our world today. Gustave Flaubert definantly had a jaded perspective and used extremity to illustrate his views. Madame Bovary is a twisted story, but is so interesting because it can also be relavent to modern times.