Wednesday, 23 May 2007


AUTHOR: Gustave Flaubert


DATE READ: April 2007

NOTES: I can well understand how controversial this novel was when it was first published. Overall it is a vicious portrayal of small town France. Most of the characters are revealed to be self-seeking and vain. At the heart of the story is Emma Bovary – and Flaubert is, I feel, ambivalent in his attitude to her. He sometimes describes her very favourably and at others as selfish hard-hearted. And we as readers share this ambivalence – is she a cruel temptress who cares little for her own child or is she a victim of the social mores and unable to act independently? Certainly the book highlights how women of the time could only find happiness and fulfilment through a male partner.

The suicide at the end is prolonged and horrific. Was Flaubert hoping to attract our sympathy for the hapless Emma or was he ensuring that she was suitably punished for her infidelities?

The writing is splendid – surprisingly modern and beautifully descriptive. I am sorry I let this book sit unread on my bookshelf for so long!

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