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Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary

June 29, 2016

Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary - 40011. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)

Read By: Davina Porter
Length: 13h 05m (512 pages)

Genre: Classic

Started: 17 February 2016
Finished: 25 February 2016

Where did it come from? Audible.
Why do I have it? It was one of my book club’s pick.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 14 February 2016.

Bored with marriage? Huge
debts and multiple affairs
are not the best choice.

Summary: Emma Bovary is stuck in her provincial life. She is married to a successful but dull country doctor, and longs for the city, for the culture and refinement and romance that she does not find in her marriage nor in motherhood. She becomes infatuated with a young law student, but does not show her affections, trying to cling to the image of devoted wife. However, she then allows herself to be seduced by a wealthy man about town, and to run up huge debts trying to live the live she wants, only to find that reality still does not live up to her romantic fantasy.

Review: I really, really did not care for this book. I don’t know if it’s a matter of the writing, or the translation, or the narration, or what, but it just did very little for me. I found the characters flat and unlikable – I felt sorry for Charles (Emma’s husband), but that’s about it. Emma herself bugged the heck out of me – I get that women in the 1800s didn’t have many options, or really any control over their lives, but Emma just seemed so stubbornly flighty and selfish that I wanted to give her a solid kick to the shins. I also didn’t really care for the writing itself (again, this may have been the translation more than the writing). The introduction talks about how meticulous Flaubert was, always in search of the perfect word, but in listening to it, I didn’t get that at all. The book came across as incredibly wordy and meandering and unnecessarily descriptive of just about everything. I didn’t understand the point of some of the lengthy narrative diversions, and even parts of the plot that were important (the whole scheme of buying and selling debt, for example) wasn’t entirely clear. Maybe if I had read this in a literature class, or if I spent more time analyzing the structure of the narrative and the significance of some of the details, maybe then I’d have gotten more out of it. But reading it by myself from a character and story-centric point of view? I had a hard time with it, and was glad when it was over. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I don’t want to dissuade people from reading the classics, but this one didn’t do it for me. You can get much the same story with more compelling characters and in a much shorter package in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

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First Line: We were at prep when the Headmaster came in, followed by a ‘new boy’ not wearing school uniform, and by a school servant carrying a large desk.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2016 2:39 pm

    Love the Chopin recommendation – good point! Bronte

  2. June 30, 2016 10:15 am

    Ah dang, too bad this one wasn’t a good choice for you. Kudos for getting through it anyway. And I recently finished reading The Awakening, actually! Still thinking about it several days later…

    • July 1, 2016 12:17 pm

      I recently finished re-reading The Awakening too, which is probably why it was on my mind.

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