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on 30 December 2008
Art appears to be imitating life...or is it? This is quite a penetrating literary mystery; well conceived, intelligently written and also artfully blended with comic drawings.

All characters are in a small way culpable, but the significance is less memorable than the scenario and the setting, which provides much room to satirise the cultural clashing between England and France. Great stuff.
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on 26 March 2017
So good! Have bought loads of copies as presents. Posy Simmonds is a brilliant story teller
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on 25 April 2000
This is the first work I have seen by Posy Simmonds, and for sure not the last.I work as a comic artist myself and it it so rare that anything comes out with such a caliber of quality in both art and writing. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.It is a tour-de-force of comic storytelling.I thank an article with this book recommendation from Hilary Spurling. WE WANT MORE.Pleeeease...Teddy H.Kristiansen
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on 4 October 1999
Following hot on the heels of Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs is another graphic novel that the mainstream literature critics will insist is not a comic book even though it so obviously is. Gemma Bovery is yet more proof that comics are an artform capable of the same levels of personal expression as any other medium like prose, film, poetry et al. Of course, this fact will be either ignored or treated with downright contempt and ridicule by most reviewers who will claim that Gemma Bovery is something more than a comic strip, and continue to make snide cracks about the French pretense that comics are an art.
Nevertheless, Gemma Bovery is a fine example of the heights that comics can achieve, and I congratulate Ms. Simmonds on a wonderfully rewarding and compelling book.
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on 9 April 2012
Posy Simmonds is seriously underrated. I may be wrong on this but I rarely ever see her graphic novels in those lists of the ones you 'must read', and if they are included they are never near the top. But she is brilliant and unique and 'Gemma Bovery' was like a breath of fresh air among all the dark lines and capital letters of the more renowned (usually male written) graphic novels. Instead, we get beautiful, sumptuous pencil drawings that, at times, make Gemma look a little like the Corpse Bride; all huge eyes and tons of expression. I loved that. I just felt there was so much depth to the drawings and they are really wonderful pieces of art.

Another thing to love about this graphic novel is the mixture of lettering and fonts throughout. It's not confusing or illegible and it is clear that real time and thought has gone into the layout; not just your boring panel to panel layout. It really makes reading interesting when it is inter-cut with the diary entries and newspaper cut outs and little bits like that. Also, the book itself is tall and long which really works well with the layout as sections can fit onto one page. I like details like that; it shows care and a dedication by the author to make the reading experience as good as possible.

I also really liked Gemma's character. Her diary entries are funny and honest and her behaviour, although quite selfish, doesn't make you hate her. She just seems like a bored, middle-class woman who is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Boring husband, boring house, boring life, boring neighbours. The desperation and panic of feeling as though you can't escape. Everyone can relate. She gets an idealistic idea into her head, goes crazy for it for a little while, and then drops it and despises it. I like that about her; it is very human.

Charlie is pathetic and the dynamic between him and his ex wife is almost painful because it is so relateable. The bored, lonely, exhausted divorced mother of two dissatisfied by her stagnant and mediocre ex so makes him pay through endless nagging and is never, ever satisfied even though he seems to be doing better than your average dad abroad. Ugh it must happen so often and that is so depressing.

I hate the character narrating the tale though- Raymond Joubert. He is sinister and, I found, quite sexually threatening. He's always staring at Gemma and making her life uncomfortable even though it is really none of his business. He annoyed me.

I also found myself wondering at the end...is this a feminist story of the destruction of a woman by men? I don't want to say too much or give it away but Gemma is constantly under the control of men and their passions and it seems she can never be happy alone. I will give that some thought I think.
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on 21 September 2008
I've not read Flaubert so I'm not qualified to judge how good this works as a modern day retelling. Nonetheless on its own merit it's a pretty good story.

Part text, part graphic novel, it tells the tragic story of Gemma Bovery, a British woman who moves to France with her new husband seeking to escape her past. The story is narrated by her French neighbour who is at first amused by the coincidence in the name but then starts to worry as her life begins to mirror that of Flaubert's heroine and rushes headlong towards the grisly end. He becomes almost something of a benign stalker and obssessed with the novel sends her photocopies pages as warnings.

The layout of the book is interesting, comic book frames nestled in prose. As the story is told in flashback there is much use of irony as we know Gemma's fate from the very beginning and can laugh as the narrator recalls his own actions. The art is simple but effective, in particular there's a lot of focus on characters eyes which sometimes betray an emotion at odds with the look plastered on their face.

I enjoyed it enough that I have now subsequently bought Madam Bovary and it's towards the top of my Next To Read Pile
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on 23 October 2000
Posy Simmonds is one of the most talented comic illustrators anywhere, and that has been her tragedy. Most comic illustrators these days can't draw particularly well (cf. How Green Are Your Wellies?), or they hide it if they can. Having the talents of a Daumier and not living in the nineteenth century does not bode well for the modern cartoonist. Still, she's apparently eked out a decent career over the last two decades--illustrating the odd book or advert, publishing elegant full-color comic strips in both English and American periodicals.
Gemma Bovery...is better than Flaubert's original. Same story, but a century and a half later.
And it's illustrated.
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on 23 November 2000
Posy Simmonds has taken the graphic novel into new territory. Brilliant narrative, outstanding illustrations. And she has people down to a T. Especially French people. Especially French women. Anyone who's ever lived in France will recognise people they've met and shiver at the memory. The beauty of this book is that in addition to the characters' words, the author is also able to show us how they look, and she does it with an accuracy that can only come from hours of observation. The attention to detail in the drawings is such that it's worth going back to the book time and time again. I wish I could meet Joubert and have him ask me what I like and dislike about France. As long as his wife wasn't hovering.
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2010
Narrated by Raymond Joubert, baker in the little Normandy village of Bailleville, this is the story of Gemma Bovery, her affairs, Joubert's obsession with her and the parallels between her life and that of Flaubert's eponymous Madame Bouvery. An acute observation of the gulf between what we think we want and what actually makes us happy and brilliantly illustrated.
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2010
This is a graphic novel, I suppose, although it mixes text and (b/w) pictures freely rather than in a frame-by-frame layout. Our eponymous heroine is a mildly screwed-up young woman bouncing between relationships. Most of the story takes place in a small French town where she lives with her unexciting husband. Her neighbour, Joubert the baker, becomes obsessed with her and with the parallels between her life and that of Madame Bovary, and we see most of the action through his snooping eyes.

It's smart and funny, cunningly plotted, acutely nailing human behaviour but responding with warm generosity. The artwork is unfussy but confident and expressive (Gemma's eyes are startlingly informative!) and the relaxed intermingling of text, diaries, comic format and visual devices is pleasing throughout. Posy Simmonds is an author I'll be happy to revisit.
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