Friday, October 9, 2015

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

I was a little hesitant going into this book. I knew almost nothing about it, except for the ending and the fact that a lot of people find it dense and unreadable. So imagine my surprise when I found it a surprisingly easy and compelling read.

Madame Bovary tells the story of farmgirl Emma, who marries provincial doctor, Charles Bovary, and almost immediately regrets it when she realises that it means she has to live in the provinces. She uses books as a means of escapism until her mother-in-law decides that all this fiction reading is making her hysterical, and orders Charles to cut off her access to books. So Emma turns to affairs instead.

I don't know if it was the translation I read or if I was just in the right headspace for this book, but I flew through it. The writing was beautiful, the story was pretty fast paced for a classic, and the characters felt surprisingly modern a lot of the time. Sure, Emma's occasional bouts of full blown hysteria weren't exactly modern, but it's a nineteenth century book. We can't expect everything.

While I was reading this, I was struck several times by similarities to Anna Karenina. Or at least the Anna-y parts of Anna Karenina. Unhappy marriage, one child, affairs, tragic ending. Except that I liked this approximately a thousand times more than Anna Karenina, with all its rambling side plots and segues about farming.

The ending was both more and less dramatic than I'd imagined, and while I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the "whip around all the main characters to find out their fates" chunk at the very end - because it seemed a little anticlimactic after the drama that preceded it - I still appreciate that it was included to demonstrate the impact that certain events had on those involved.

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'd definitely recommend it.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

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