Book Review: Madame Bovary

Continuing my quest to read more classic novels this year, today's review is of Gustave Flaubert's realist classic, Madame Bovary. This was a book I had in my head for some time - no idea why, I think it was memories of the copy at my parents' house and friends reading it for uni many years ago - so when it came to choosing my next book, it was something of a no-brainer to download this one.

For those of you who haven't read it, Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Bovary, a young country girl who falls for doctor Charles, but becomes disillusioned with her marriage when the couple moves to a small French towns. Bored and frustrated as a wife and a mother, she falls into affairs and debts. It's pretty obvious from that synopsis where this is going to end.

The main thing I have to say about Madame Bovary is that it's incredibly well written. The descriptions are so rich and vital, so packed with details, you almost feel like you're standing on the street or in the room with the characters - who are equally as well drawn. It's been a long time since I felt strong emotions towards a book character, and this book provided that in spades. I genuinely sympathised with Charles in his attempts to make his wife happy, and - at the risk of sounding harsh - actually felt quite angry towards Emma, especially towards the end of the novel when she'd brought her fate on herself. The supporting characters are equally well fleshed-out, from the almost comical apothecary Homais and his family and the cunning merchant Lhereux to the contrast between Emma's two lovers, shy young law student Leon and dashing ladies' man Rodolphe. It's also brilliantly paced - even though it's a bit predictable, especially coming off the back of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, I wanted to keep reading to find out where it ended up going.

Overall, it's a wonderfully detailed and completely immersive book with fantastically realised settings and characters whose humanity leaps off the page. I really, really liked this book and would definitely recommend it if you're a fan of classic literature. Even though the plot is a bit simple, the detail and intricacy involved in it, as well as the layers of story packed on top of each other, make it well worth a read.

I think I'm going to have a break from reading classic novels for a little while, just because there are quite a few modern books and series I want to read. At the moment I'm reading Dracula as I haven't read that before and like something scary at this time of year, and at some point I'd like to read the George Eliot and Thomas Hardy books I haven't yet got around to. I also quite fancy doing a classic novel challenge next year - reading every Charles Dickens book, in order of publication - so will let you know how I get on with that.

You can get Madame Bovary free on Kindle, but I'd been informed that version wasn't very good so went for the Collins edition which costs 99p. The cheapest paperback version is the Wordsworth Classics edition which costs £1.89.

Have you read Madame Bovary? What did you think of it? What other classic French novels have you read or want to read? And are there any characters in books you've read who you've felt really strong emotions towards (good or bad)? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

1 comment:

  1. I know this is old, but I wanted to comment anyway! Didn't you feel sympathy with Emma at all? My sense of sadness at her life is what I remember most from the novel - an intelligent, frustrated woman, who succumbs to marriage to a man much less clever and ambitious than her because she - correctly - doesn't think life can offer her anything else.