Delicious satire of provincial life - not bad for a book 'about nothing'!,
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This review is from: Madame Bovary (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I approached this novel having already tasted something of Flaubert's richly descriptive prose in 'November', a book I would certainly recommend. This book is far more layered than that enjoyable ode to youthful obsession; it stretches across many themes, though overall I view it as a story of juxtaposition on many levels.
This is borne out in the hypocrisy which permeates the novel, positively rising from the page, as Flaubert consummately undermines the faux-sincerity of middle-class provincial life; in a society where appearances are almost everything. Without wishing to go too deeply into the storyline, there are also intriguing themes arranged around Madame Bovary herself which conflict with eachother constantly; conformity / personal fulfilment, marriage / sexuality representing a small example. The novel successfully portrays a very realistic human character, a woman in possession of raging passions we may feel a range of emotions towards as the novel progresses. When asked of his inspiration for this unforgettable character, Flaubert replied "Madame Bovary, c'est moi". Apart from sounding far more enigmatic in French, this remark reveals something of the author's personal 'complexities', which are also touched upon in the well-written introduction to the novel.
I highly recommend this book. It does not require an iron will to stick with it until it becomes interesting; rather, it coaxes you in to the story, into Yonville itself, until you find yourself chuckling with recognition at some small observation Flaubert sardonically throws out about one of the many inhabitants. I enjoyed reading this book for many different reasons - the delicious irony, the beautiful (and at times haunting) imagery and, of course, simply for the engaging story of a restless butterfly -(edit - plot spoiler!)... I'm sure you will find your own reasons to love this novel too.