Monday, 26 December 2011

REVIEW:- Gustave FLAUBERT - “Madame Bovary“

Year Published: - 1857
Where the book was from:- My own copy
Pages: - 357pp
Genre: - Classic Fiction
Location:- Rural France
How I came across it: - Re-reading (first read c 1970)
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- This examination of life in rural France in the 1850s well deserves its classic status and is noteworthy as an examination of Emma Bovary for whom the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- 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.

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). 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 extramarital love affairs as well as causing her to accrue an enormous amount of debt. Convinced that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, Emma does not realize that extreme joy, even for the wealthy and powerful, comes rarely.

Although fairly intelligent she never has a chance to develop her mind and as an adult, Emma's capacity for imagination is far greater than her capacity for analysis. She not only believes in the false fronts other people present to her, but she despises the very few people who are exactly as they appear to be.

General comments:- Madame Bovary (1856) was Flaubert's first published novel and is considered his masterpiece.

The novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors when it was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between October and December 1856, resulting in a trial in January 1857 that made the story notorious. After the acquittal in February 1857, it became a bestseller when it was published as a book that April, and it now stands virtually unchallenged not only as a seminal work of Realism, but as one of the most influential novels ever written.

Emma was leaning out at the window; she was often there. The window in the provinces replaces the theatre and the promenade….

Self-possession depends upon its environment. We don’t speak on the first floor as on the fourth; and the wealthy woman seems to have, about her, to guard her virtue, all her bank-notes, like a cuirass, in the lining of her corset.

She was the mistress of all the novels, the heroine of all the dramas, the vague ‘she’ of all the volumes of verse.

…a demand for money being, of all the kinds that blow upon love, the coldest and most destructive.

AUTHOR Notes:- Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880) was a French writer who is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary (1857), and for his scrupulous devotion to his art and style. Flaubert was notoriously a perfectionist about his writing and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste ("the right word").

New or unusual words (in this particular translation) –
list (as an adjective to describe shoes) – meaning unknown;
tatterdemalion - n. A person wearing ragged or tattered clothing; a ragamuffin. adj. Ragged; tattered.

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