‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert

'Madame Bovary' by Gustave Flaubert

Author, Gustave Flaubert

According to Wikipedia, this novel was written by Flaubert, ‘at the urging of friends, who were trying (unsuccessfully) to “cure” Flaubert of his deep-dyed Romanticism by assigning him the dreariest subject they could think of, and challenging him to make it interesting without allowing anything out-of-the-way to occur.’ And thus ‘Madame Bovary’ was created, and became of the most recognized romantic tragedies of all time. (Oddly enough along with ‘Anna Karenina’ – a novel that I just can not complete no matter how hard I try – whereas I flew through this story. Must be the lack of all the Russian names.)

‘… Her heart remained empty once more, and the procession of days all alike began again. So they were going to follow one another, like this, in line, always identical, innumerable, bringing nothing!’

Madame Emma Bovary married Charles hoping and dreaming of a romanticized life. She wanted adventure, she wanted passion, she wanted infamy, and ‘She would have liked the name of Bovary, which was hers, to be illustrious, to see it displayed in bookshops, repeated in newspapers, known by all of France.’ Instead, Madame Bovary lived a staid and unfillfilling life with a man she came to detest, and birthed a child whom she largely neglected.

Her husband, on the other hand, loved her dearly and unconditionally. Charles Bovary strove to do whatever he could to keep his wife happy, and he felt lucky to have married such a gem. Even as she started having affairs like a little strumpet, he still defended her – and did not even truly believe the rumors until he had read the damning letters for himself.

In the end, Madame Emma Bovary takes her life, Charles Bovary dies of a broken heart, and their poor neglected daughter Berthe is sent to live with distant relatives and forced to work in a factory. Really an incredibly sad and depressing tale, but one I am glad to have read as the emotions are quite realistic and truthfully felt and written.

I actually felt bad for Emma, although she was selfish and at times cruel, because she was so clearly adrift in life, having nothing that she truly enjoyed or that she could excel in. I believe this story – at its core – is a testimant to the type of life women lived at the time, and I – for one – felt reminded why I am grateful to be a woman living in this time rather than Emma Bovary’s time. Gustave Flaubert, himself, best describes the situation of life when he wrote one of his characters as exclaiming:

‘It was the fault of destiny!’

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 1 {out of 5} stars | ★☆☆☆☆
RATING: 3 {out of 5} stars | ★★★☆☆

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