Reading Classics: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I read this book as part of the Classics Club Challenge – I challenged myself to read fifty classics picked by me in the next three years. To find out more, you can see my list or visit the Classics Club website.
Flaubert was a contemporary of Zola, and in many ways Madame Bovary and Nana can be compared. I really prefer the story of Madame Bovary though, as Flaubert seems much more sympathetic to his main character than Zola is to Nana.
The story starts with the childhood of mister Bovary, and in a few chapters paints the years before he met Emma in broad strokes. Soon however, the focal point switches to Emma, and her dissatisfaction with her life.
Madame Bovary managed to ellicit a strong feeling of pathos for Emma, at least for me. She is definitely not well-loved amongst readers, but I felt for her. She is stuck in a world where a woman can do nothing but marry someone that seems agreeable, and then sit the rest of her life out. She longs for escape, for grand adventures, for strong emotions, but it’s impossible for her to leave the town where she lives with her husband. All a woman could do in that time to defy the common order, was to have an affair. Which she does – and of course these affairs don’t solve anything.
Although at the end also Emma experiences her downfall, Flaubert is always respectful towards Emma. Although her fancies are sometimes incredibly shallow, passages from her view points are among the most beautiful and profound in the book.
Coupled with truly cool writing, I really enjoyed Madame Bovary.