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A HIGHLY REGARDED CLASSIC!
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.