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3.6 out of 5 stars84
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 14 December 2014
I was recommended this novel by a friend.
Knowing nothing of the book and seeing that it cost nothing on Kindle, I thought, why not?
I briefly searched for the book on Wikipedia just to find out when it was published. On seeing the publish date was1857 and book fell into Classic genre, I approached it with a sense of trepidation. It's been 20 years since I've read a classic and I remember constantly having a dictionary by my side in order to understand some of the more complex words and get a better grasp of classic literature.
This is a french novel that has been obviously translated. I read it on my Kindle and frequently found myself using it's dictionary which did make for slightly slower reading but I found it to be a necessity all the same.
Having said that, this is one of the more easy classics to read. You soon get the jist of the story and the plot is surprisingly simple to follow.
It's worth noting that on it's release, this book was considered HIGHLY controversial and banned. The author was even taken to court! (but was aquitted). Due to this, the novel became an instant bestseller.
A synopsis of the story (without revealing too much) is this.
The tale centres around the beautiful Madame Bovary and how one wrong life choice impacts on her forever.
Set in the countryside, she meets the kindly Charles Bovary, who has a respectable job as a doctor and whom she intially finds attractive. They marry.
Although Charles is the perfect, adoring husband, and they live relatively comfortably, he is quite content in performing his job but has no ambitions. His happiness eminates from having Madame Bovary as his wife and that's all it seems he wants from life. She can do no wrong in his eyes.
Soon into the marriage Madame Bovary realizes the she and Charles are quite different and she has made the wrong choice in agreeing to marry him. She gradually shows disinterest in her husband's meal time discourse of his day to day dealings with his patients and descends into depression.
I presume in the 19th century, little to nothing was known about mental health, as Charles (being a doctor) cannot understand what is wrong with her and decides that a change of scenery will raise her from her stupor. So they move (while Madame Bovery is pregnant) to a somewhat poor village.
On arriving at the village Inne and sitting down to dinner with various other residents, the dejected Madame Bovary meets a clerk called Leon. He is instantly enchanted with her and they gently start conversing. Both find they share similar interests such as literature, music etc. This sparks a flame within her...
She gives birth to a baby girl and even this cannot bring her to invigorate her marriage to Charles. The child is left with the village nurse for it's first few formative months before Madame Bovary even allows it into her home.
However she is secretly happy at the attention that Leon shows to her during their private liasons. But when she realizes that Leon's feelings are becoming too intense, she states that nothing can ever become of them and ceases to meet him. Her emotions towards Lion are repressed and she decides to become a virtuous, dutiful wife.
This facade soon wears thin. On understanding that Madame Bovary will never reciprocate his love, Leon decides to leave the village for Paris. This intially fills her with sorrow. Her thoughts and emotions of finding the perfect love eat away at her. The disinterest towards her husband soon turns to detest. The mere fact that her being married to him fills him with endless happiness infuriates her. All the time he is oblivious to this.
Soon a man by the name of Rodolphe visits Charle's home with his servant to have the boys arm bled. On seeing Madame Bovary, Rodolphe almost instantly decides he mast have her. He starts to conive a plan so that he can be alone with her...
Without spoiling anything, you are conveyed the fact that Madame Bovary has to pay a price for her actions.
Thats all I shall say on the story.
While reading this you should remember that this book was written in a time that if a woman feels she's made a misjudgment in her choice of husband then she simply had to grit her teeth, be the dutiful wife and raise her family. Divorce was just not an option.
What I liked about Madame Bovary was that she decides to fly in the face of social convention. To begin with I liked her and thought why should she not engage in her search for the perfect love. Like every human being she deserves to be happy. There was a certain feeling of female empowerment about her character.
But quickly, the way in which she conducts her life becomes uncontrollable and she displays a positively flagrant disregard for a woman's place in 19th century society.
This is is what shocked the public on the novels release. Women were simply not portrayed this way in literature. Some went as far to describe the book as obscene!
Flaubert writes with rich description and portrays rural life in France perfectly. The story is told at a pace that keeps you interested and I never found myself bored as I have with other classics.
If you are new to the classics I would highly recommend this.
Due to the author's style with words I found this to be an enriching read.
I hope this helps.
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on 27 June 2013
What at first appears to be a classic love story becomes more and more enthralling as Flaubert throws in themes of adultery and despair. It took me a while to feel connected to the characters but it is definitely worth a read.
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on 3 May 2014
I would not have chosen to read this book but as it's acknowledged as a French classic it is good to know why. I feel that some of the themes may be ahead of their time, which is interesting ( no spoilers here ! ) I have only given it 3 stars because I find the translation poor and at times there are several errors in the text, which spoil enjoyment of the book. On the plus side, it was free to download !
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on 16 January 2016
Good grief this is an abysmal translation. I'm glad it was free, but not surprised. This "translator"(if it is indeed a person) doesn't deserve to be paid. The whole content of the book has changed due to the misinterpretation of words, misspellings and atrocious sentences composition. I stopped reading after the first chapter as I found myself having to re-read sentences just to see if I could make any sense. I couldn't. Take this kindle version off Amazon!
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on 18 September 2014
Terrible translation. I started to read it but felt there was something very wrong with the translation. I then bought the Margaret Maulden translation (Oxford world Classics) and it was like reading a different book. I presume Eleanor Marx was not mother tongue English? I believe the Geofffrey Wall translation is also very good.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2015
This is Flaubert's seminal novel of adultery in provincial France in the early 19th century, the publication of which in 1856 caused outrage and led to the author's prosecution for obscenity (he was acquitted). The title character, married to a decent but (to her) dull provincial doctor Charles Bovary, commits adultery with two men, Rodolphe Boulanger and Leon Dupuis, for reasons of simple ennui with her life. Indeed, she almost seems to have an addiction for the ecstasy and lack of self control of love, and is at one point described by her lover Rodolphe as "gaping after love like a carp after water on a kitchen table". I found her an unsympathetic character, until her indebtedness leads to the novel's dramatic and tragic lifestyle. While the author's observations of French provincial life are no doubt acute, I didn't particularly enjoy reading the novel, and the other characters didn't interest me.
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on 5 September 2013
I'm addicted to David Lean's film Ryan's Daughter and it is his (and Robert Bolt's) loose adaptation of this book that led me to Madame Bovary. Rich, packed with social commentary, beautifully detailed and absorbing, it is a story to revisit. And, if you haven't seen it, try Ryan's Daughter too.
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on 1 February 2014
Something of Middlemarch about this book: a small provincial setting provides the backdrop and appears as a major factor in the life of the central character. Unlike Middlemarch there's only one fully drawn character but there are plenty of intriguing bit parts too.
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on 3 January 2014
I've always wanted to read this story, having heard much about it. Difficult to read unless you love historical novels and was slightly disappointed as Mdme Bovary wasn't the 'black widow' I had imagined. Good for when you're 'in between' books.
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on 5 June 2014
It was difficult to get to the story because of the sometimes too literal translation. Often I had to read a sentence twice to get its proper meaning and that does slow down the reading! It is a good book - but choose another translation.
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