Sunday, May 1, 2016
Madame Bovary - A Review
I must admit I didn't feel so manly toting around my dog-eared copy of Madame Bovary the past six weeks. I was stared at on planes and subways. I live in a household with three females and was mockingly regaled by each.
I told them all the explosions and spy intrigue in the book was keeping me riveted to the pages. They knew this was a falsehood since I struggled through the novel and hate books/movies with high explosions to plot ratios.
But I needed to read this novel for no other reason that it has become a classic. It set France aflame nearly 200 years ago and caused poor Gustave Flaubert, the author, to suffer through an immorality trial. He was acquitted, and rightly so. A novel where no body parts are described, where no sex scenes are described, immoral? A criminal trial launched against a French author for publishing a book set in France, immoral? A novel with only one or two common swearwords, immoral? Pshaw!
Today, it is required reading in many high schools. It just shows how much literature has degraded over the centuries. Not to call 50 Shades a Gray literature, but it makes one wonder the beheading that would have befallen (every pun intended) the modern author if she published it in Flaubert's day. Off with her head!
Emma. Emma. Emma. Is the bored housewife of a country doctor. Her choices used to make her more exciting don't turn out well for her. Poor Emma. She gathers little sympathy from readers, though. And Flaubert's greatest crime in publishing the novel is he expressed the hidden desires of bored housewives everywhere on the page.
In Madame Bovary he pushed the envelope of literature and should forever be rewarded. The novel seems rambling at times--almost restless--and I believe Flaubert wrote it this way to reflect the restlessness of Emma. Apart from Flaubert being terrible at setting in the novel, this was a groundbreaking novel in every respect.
Henry James once said, "Madame Bovary has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone; it holds itself with such a supreme unapproachable assurance as both excites and defies judgment."
It's worth a read even if romance is not your preferred genre.