C.'s Reviews > Three Tales: A Simple Heart / The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller / Herodias

Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert
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's review
Oct 22, 2010

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bookshelves: own-or-access, short-stories, 2010, to-be-re-read
Read from October 19 to 22, 2010

A Simple Heart is a naturalistic story in the style of Madame Bovary, but perhaps told with more kindness towards the protagonist (though personally I think Flaubert was pretty kind to Emma anyway). It was quite lovely, but I don't think it succeeded as well as Emma because it was shorter and its subject less morally suspect. Though that implies that the reason Emma is so good is because of its sensational aspect, which is not true. It's the way he deals with someone behaving so... strangely? (what she does isn't really 'wrong' as such) that is so extraordinary.

The other two stories were unlike anything I've ever read before. The Legend of St Julian Hospitator is effectively a legend, and as such didn't really make sense. According to the introduction, it was supposed to have a similar effect to a stained-glass window depiction of the life of a saint, and I think it succeeded in that. Difficult to identify with, though.

Herodias I found to be written in a very confusing style - it seemed to contradict itself often and say things that didn't quite make sense. Also I got all the characters confused, especially since many of them seemed to have two or three names. However, it was fascinating from a historical perspective.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Manny I agree with most of this! I also thought the stained glass window worked surprisingly well. I found Herodias hard to follow too, but my feeling was that it was mainly because I didn't know the Bible well enough. Anyway, I read most of the footnotes, and now I am less ignorant than I was :)

message 2: by C. (new) - rated it 3 stars

C. I don't know much about biblical history either, so that probably didn't help. I read this ages and ages ago now, but I still remember it being really interesting despite my lack of background knowledge. He really conjured up something in that story - I remember a dusty desert with absolutely bloodthirsty politics juxtaposed over the top. Which is kind of a new and interesting thing if one has been brought up with western history mostly.

Manny Yes, the image of the mountain citadel surrounded by desert, and all the rival political and religious factions at each other's throats... that was quite powerful. But I kept getting lost in the details. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn't read the footnotes!

message 4: by C. (new) - rated it 3 stars

C. I don't think my copy had footnotes, so that wasn't really an issue for me... maybe that was the problem, then!

Manny Mine had copious footnotes - really too much of a good thing. Well, at least I'm now rather clearer on Samaritans, Pharisees and Sadducees, what a tetrarch was, the history of Lucius and Aulus Vitellius, etc...

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