Sunday, January 15, 2017
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."
I've seen this described as the first realist novel and as the above blurb states, it encompasses the "banality of provincial life" . Emma Bovary makes some bad choices and this isn't a plot spoiler, - don't end well - but what I found enjoyable is the writing and the descriptions of every day life.
The book took five years to write and Flaubert wrote very slowly, "often agonizing for hours over the rhythm of a sentence". This effort makes this a very easy read and you don't feel that you are reading a translation published in 1857.
The book is full of small town characters, stupid, greedy, predatory, all the types that make up any community. The highlight for me is the description of a village live stock fair. From the pompous politician to the poor servant who wins money for 50 years of faithful service to her master and then gives it all to a priest to say a mass for her!
This is the side of the book that is the most enjoyable for me, it very easy to write Madame Bovary off as vain etc etc but she is only part of this wonderful tale.
After the books publication Flaubert and his editor were tried for offences against public morals due to this books contents but were acquitted, no idea what may have been the grounds after reading the book but perhaps it was 'racy' 160 years ago.