Madame Bovary



Madame Bovary  by  Gustave Flaubert

I read this book mainly through audiobook, however the last few chapters were missing.  Thankfully I had the book in my library and was able to finish it.  There were multiple different people reading the novel and their variations of french differed slightly.  Ultimately it was pretty beneficial to have many of the french words read by more experienced persons, for when I was reading myself I knew how they SHOULD sound and not how I would make them sound.

The story opens introducing us to a young boy at a new school.  After some time he goes to medical school and becomes a doctor.  Of course this narration and story behind the young boy and how he becomes a man is rather short, as we are clearly waiting to hear more of a Madame Bovary.  The author speaks briefly of Madame Bovary Senior, but her character seems nothing of importance, or not enough to expect a whole story written of her.  The Madame Bovary we seek is a young girl who marries the young man, Charles Bovary, and becomes Emma Bovary. Charles is a travelling doctor, and as such Madame Bovary is left at home with her books and her romantic ideas.  She is easily bored, and they move to a different town with many more characters and events that follow.

Emma is a young girl with a romantic idea of life and the one she wishes to lead.  She has a husband who adores her but she continuously dreams of far away places and charming men.  She grows to hate her husband and begins affairs and indulgences that will ruin her.

This novel is a famous classic novel, and has had its praises sung since 1856 when it was published.  Although the story was well written, it’s spell did not work on me.  Much of the storyline and conversations were dull and despite any affairs or extravagance, nothing of interest really occurs.  I am rather displeased with this book, and as such, everything that follows will be pure spoiler.  So if this bothers you…please stop reading.

Emma Bovary is a fantastical creature, and yet I don’t mean this at all.  She is a young girl with a romantic idea of how life should be.  Always wishing for the lives of others from her novels.  But we cannot condemn her for this, because we are all guilty of dreaming.  As a woman in this time period, she feels she has no freedom and yet it doesn’t seem like such an entrapped life.  She has not one, but two different lengthy affairs.  She escapes her home regularly, leaving all duties to the help.  She even bares a daughter and passes her off on a nurse and others.  Even when she is home, she does not do much of anything but read and pour her heart into love letters or order materialistic goods.  She lavishes gifts upon herself and her lovers, spending well beyond her means.  Her husband continues to love her and allow her to do as she pleases to make her happy.  As she is creating debt upon debt and lies to cover things up, she loathes her husband and thinks of no one but herself.  Even in the end when she has brought ruin to her entire family, she thinks of only herself, by committing suicide through eating arsenic. Charles is by her side until the end and loves her dearly even after knowing of her affairs.  He even makes extravagant demands for her burial, for it is something she would have wished.  He no longer practices medicine and becomes recluse, overwhelmed by despair and loss of her.  He eventually dies, leaving his poor daughter to go live with distant relatives, and to work at a cotton mill.

Through life and death, Emma Bovary thought of no one but herself, and lived a sad life.  I can imagine all the many differing opinions and how she suffered so, and yet did she not bring much of the suffering on herself?  She threw herself into the relationship with Charles expecting to get her fairy tale romance, but did not.  So she has multiple affairs and spends their money frivolously.  And even in trying to escape it all, she thinks of only herself and makes matters worse for the rest of her family.

This is a very thought provoking book, and could be the start of many interesting discussions.  But as for a book and a recommendation, I do NOT recommend that you read this book.  The story is very disappointing, and rather dull throughout.


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