Item description for Madame Bovary (Classic Fiction) by Gustavo Flaubert...
Emma Bovary has proved one of the most compelling heroines in modern literature. Unhappily married to a loyal but bumbling provincial doctor, she revolts against her boredom by pursuing unbridled passion. Inevitably, Emma's sensual desires lead to suffering, corruption and her eventual tragic downfall.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Madame Bovary (Classic Fiction)?
Humanity Captured in Prose Jun 29, 2008
Like so many of the classics, Madame Bovary does an incredible job of recording humanity. All of the characters are whole, full-fleshed and individual. Emma's discontent with life, her yearning for something more, has probably been experienced by all of us. Her yearning destroys her, and her husband, but teaches us about ourselves along the way. The reason I love this book, and many of the other classics, is that the characters don't always have reasons, they think and behave erratically, sometimes logically, sometimes foolishly, just like real people.
Madame Bovary - but it's about men Jun 12, 2008
I probably disliked this novel as much as I did 'Sons and Lovers'. For a while I just thought I'd been reading too many French writers (Huysmans, Sand,....) but it was much deeper than that.
Although Madame Bovary is the central character, and an intriguing one at that, I don't believe that she is any more than a vehicle for Flaubert to vent his virtiole against men. There are four principle male characters in this novel and we see them reflected and caricatured in their responses to mixed-up, not altogether lovable Emma.
There is husband Charles who is overwhelmed by the love he feels from Emma - he sees himself as SO lucky. But he is blind - seeing none of Emma's distress, or philandering. And he is not very successful at what he does anyway.
Then there is lover Rodolphe. He is the ultimate selfish prig of a man. He reflects, as he walks away from Emma - having raised her hopes of a new more exciting life - that she was a wonderful mistress but he couldn't possibly compromise his selected way of life. Not for any woman, no matter how rewarding she might be. And when she appeals to him for help, she gets nothing from him.
The second lover, Leon, is a more youthful and inexperienced participant in Emma's life. But later he does marry (not Emma, of course) so it is not commitment he shies away from. Nevertheless he fails Emma.
Finally there is the chemist Homais, Charles's 'colleague'. He also has no sensitivity to Emma, almost misses seeing her at all. Like Charles, he is unsuccessful in some of his ventures, but he has such comically grand illusions about himself.
All four men exhibit fundamental flaws. For me Charles and Leon have some saving graces. But none of them I have much sympathy for.
And then there is the matter of Emma's decline - not due to her affairs. Was Flaubert unable to undermine Emma because of the affairs, because of Emma's selfish self-seeking? Did he have to create other artifices to inflict upon her - and the men around her (not that Homais really notices) - to give the story a 'moral'?
The writing is spectacular - Flaubert was a wonderful observer and expresser of ideas. But for me, good writing is more than observation and a facility with words. It is the structure of the novel that failed me.
great book, lousy edition Feb 17, 2008
print is too small for my wife and myself, we both got used to it but it's probably better to buy a different printing
Remains relevant Jan 13, 2008
The startling impact of this novel published 150 years ago can only be imagined. It's doubtful that a female central character had ever exhibited such self-centeredness, held such disdain for her life and those in it, spent so much time romanticizing and fantasizing about future life with lovers, or sunk to such depths of despair when realities hit home. The themes of the book are hardly irrelevant today: the quick onset of marital unhappiness, the excitement, yet limitations, of infidelity, and the financial consequences of extravagance.
Despite the relevance of those issues, the characterizations are not particularly realistic by modern standards: the characters are overdrawn - excessive. Emma is almost childlike in her profound unhappiness and obsessiveness; her husband Charles is beyond oblivious in failing to perceive Emma's thinking and behavior; and the comical arrogance of various professionals, such as the doctors and the pharmacist, is only exceeded by their ignorance and incompetence.
The book is set in small towns in the French countryside. It's difficult for the modern reader to fully grasp that environment, though the author offers fairly detailed and sophisticated descriptions. In fact, one might want to keep a dictionary handy.
The subject matter of the book is commonplace in the modern novel. But the book is interesting just from the standpoint that a nineteenth century author could produce a book that is so psychologically perceptive concerning marital life. It is considered to be a classic for a reason; it remains worth reading.
A Gem Jan 9, 2008
I agree with the editorial review above that says you could shake this book and nothing would fall out. I am amazed at how much emotion Flaubert can convey in the midst of apparently neutral descriptions of fact. The story is powerfully told, and nothing is wasted.
The book is rather like a longer alternate version of Hedda Gabler. The author's unblinking eye shows you the virtues and flaws of all characters, letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions.