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Madame Bovary

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3.66  ·  Rating details ·  223,572 ratings  ·  9,321 reviews
F is for Flaubert. Emma Bovary is the original desperate housewife. Beautiful but bored, she is married to the provincial doctor Charles Bovary yet harbors dreams of an elegant and passionate life. Escaping into sentimental novels, she finds her fantasies dashed by the tedium of her days. Motherhood proves to be a burden; religion is only a brief distraction. In an effort ...more
Hardcover, Penguin Drop Caps, 413 pages
Published December 12th 2012 by Penguin Books (first published 1856)
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Nuno Ribeiro Your question seems to have the stress on "deserve", on merit or morals. The book is a critic on society, not on the type of woman Emma is. Emma and…moreYour question seems to have the stress on "deserve", on merit or morals. The book is a critic on society, not on the type of woman Emma is. Emma and her husband are a product of that society. A better life would be possible, that is the underlying premise of the book, if society changed. The sufering and misery that Emma ends up with is inevitable. That seems to be the point of the book. A woman of that society has no say in her future. She has to accept an arranged marriage. And she can try to have some affairs, and have her reputation ruined. But she cannot have it all, love, pleasure, power, happiness, money, control. That is impossible. That belongs to men. It's beyond any notion of merit, or any conscious behaviour a woman might achive or aspire to. "The Lady of the Camellias", by Alexandre Dumas, fils is contemporary of this novel (it was published 9 years earlier) and shows the only other option a woman had, if she wanted romance and love: to become a courtier and entertain men. A woman could not, freely, choose who to love, if she fell in love. She would either have an affair (and be considered a whore) or she would have to officially chose to be a whore. And if you think this is dangerously similar to what we have today, it shows how little society has changed. (less)
Marc Cooper I much preferred Adam Thorpe's translation to Lydia Davis's.

Here's an article where he talks about his translation: …more
I much preferred Adam Thorpe's translation to Lydia Davis's.

Here's an article where he talks about his translation: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

From my review: "Before reading, you first need to choose your translator. I began by reading the much-prasied Lydia Davis translation. 50 pages in, it felt like I was reading a US western instead of very, very French novel. After a little exploration, I settled on Adam Thorpe’s translation, and this proved an excellent choice. His occasional footnotes provided insight into cultural references and his reasoning behind certain translation choices. These added greatly to my enjoyment."(less)

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Kelly
Oh, Emma. Emma, Emma, Emma. Darling, why must you make it so easy ? No, dear, (for once) I don’t mean for the men. I mean for everyone else in the world who goes into this book just looking for an excuse to make fun of you. I would say that most people don’t know that much about France, but they do know a few things: that they like their baguettes, their socialism, Sartre, dirrrty dirrty sexy lurrrve and they despise this thing called the bourgeoisie. This book doesn’t really do a thing to dispr ...more
DeLaina
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-college
This is one of the books that has had a profound effect on my life. The moral? Be happy with what you have and where you are!!! Mme. Bovary fritters away her entire life with thoughts of, "If only X would happen, THEN I could be truly happy" and yet she never is. She gets everything she thinks she wants only to find out she's still not content.

I read this while I was engaged and at the time, thought, "Well, I'll be happier when I'm married, but once I am, then life will be fabulous". After a few
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Oy, the tedium, the drudgery of trying to read this book! I tried to get into this story. Really, I did. It's a classic, right? And everyone else likes it. I kept making myself continue, hoping I could get into the story and figure out what's supposed to be so good about it.
I won't waste any more of my precious reading time on this. It's about a self-absorbed young wife who longs for anyone else's life except her own. When she's in the city, she dreams of the farm. When she's in the country, she
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”Before her marriage, she had believed that what she was experiencing was love; but since the happiness that should have resulted from that love had not come, she thought she must have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out just what was meant, in life, by the words bliss, passion, and intoxication, which had seemed so beautiful to her in books.”

 photo Madame Bovary_zpsypdg9unz.jpg
Mia Wasikowska plays Madame Bovary in the 2015 movie.

Before she is Madame Bovary, Emma is keeping house for her father on a remote farm. I wonder w
...more
P-eggy
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Three and a half stars, uprated to 5 stars because I can't get it out of my head. 9 April 2012.

Not sure what to make of it. The self-obsessed Emma Bovary was obviously (to me) a side of Flaubert himself. She feels that there is so much more but her limited life fences her in and instead of drawing into herself, seeing what she has to offer, how to make the best of herself, she wants happiness to come to her just as it does in the romance novels she, and Flaubert, read.

I understood that spiritual
...more
Lizzy
Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books.

You might be surprised to learn that I was mesmerized by Emma’s life story. I was mesmerized and suffered along with her as she capsized further and further into the ambushes life presented her.
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
My 3rd reading of this masterpiece written with irony and finesse. The eternal story of Emma Bovary and her broken dreams is heartbreaking every time.

The narration is actually quite modern in that the perspective changes quite often from a mysterious first person in the beginning (a schoolmate of Charles Bovary?) to the interior monologues of Charles, Emma, Léon, and Rodolphe. The descriptions of the various locations in the book are always surprising with tiny references to the principle charac
...more
Lisa
Since I read Quicksand by Nella Larsen this week, Emma Bovary started haunting my mind yet again!

We are old friends, Emma and I.

I spent hours and hours over a dictionary at age seventeen in high school, trying to read about her agonies in original French, with only the Isabelle Huppert film as a guidance. In fact, I actually think I owe it to Emma Bovary that I finally made it over the threshold to understand written French. That ultimately led me to university studies in French literature, and
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
886. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary is the debut novel of French writer Gustave Flaubert, published in 1856. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. One day, Charles visits a local farm to set the owner's broken leg and meets his patient's daughter, Emma Rouault. Emma is a beautiful, daintily dressed young woman who has received a "good education" in
...more
Kat Kennedy
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."

That's right. Defies judgment.

Henry James
I don't know... he looks kind of judgy to me...

Unfortunately, I had to read a translation as my French is nowhere near good enough to read the original. Though I am assured that the prose in the original French are amazing and inspiring.

I can certainly a
...more
İntellecta
Madame Bovary is Gustav Flaubert's most famous novel and realistically tells the story and the sinking of a young woman. The subtle language, the characteristic detailed descriptions let you dive into a completely different world. And even if the story comes from a completely different time, there are so many parallels to ours. There are many possibilities for interpretation and also the psychological aspect is not neglected. Madame Bovary's story, especially when you consider the time the novel ...more
Perry
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libri-classici
Splendid, Accessible Prose in Lydia Davis' Translation of Madame Bovary


Madame Bovary dreams of the romantic adventures of which she reads and stands out as possibly the most self-centered anti-heroine in the Western canon. Yet, it could be that some who haven't read it have no idea of the "ending" ending (which I won't give away here).

If you haven't read this, I recommend this translation, in which Lydia Davis' prose is sublime, e.g.:
Love, she believed, had to come, suddenly, with a great c
...more
Henry Avila
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma is a rather silly, very passionate ( too much so) bored, uneducated to the reality of the real world young woman, who believes in the romantic novels she reads, moonlight walks, eerie, forbidding castles, dangerous flights into unknown, and strange lands always trying to escape their frightening captors... brave, handsome men, that are faithful to their beautiful virtuous women, fighting the evil, monstrous, corrupt but attractive libertines and the hero rescuing them in the nick of time... ...more
Martine
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: incurable romantics and those who love nineteenth-century literature in general
Like every European teenager who takes French at secondary school, I was supposed to read Madame Bovary when I was seventeen or so. I chose not to, and boy, am I glad I did. I couldn't possibly have done justice to the richness of Flaubert's writing as a seventeen-year-old. Moreover, I probably would have hated the characters so much that I never would have given the book another chance. Which would have been a shame, as it's really quite deserving of the tremendous reputation it has.

Madame Bova
...more
Fionnuala
There’s something about Flaubert’s writing that makes me want to comment on his books as I’m reading them. I had that experience with Bouvard et Pécuchet last year and I had it again while reading this book, so I jotted down my thoughts as I read.

Part I jottings
When you’re reading such a famous story as this one, the ending of which everyone knows already, you read it differently. You dawdle along, indulging yourself with odd details. And so, in these early pages, I’m admiring how Flaubert desc
...more
Kevin Ansbro
"Like a sailor in distress, she would gaze out over the solitude of her life with desperate eyes, seeking some white sail in the mists of the far off horizon."

It's always difficult to properly appraise a book when one hasn't read it in the language in which it was written. My edition was translated by Geoffrey Wall, who preserved Flaubert's distinctive habits of punctuation, italicisation and paragraphing. Though the overuse of exclamation marks is discouraged by modern-day publishers, Flaube
...more
Garima
Her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house.

We meet and greet different sorts of people; we greet and read different sorts of books. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Jane Eyre. With her modest dreams and dignified living, it was easy to accept and love her. She was far from perfect but there was hardly a thing I would have changed about her. A fictional character of literature exemplifying the virtuous side of real life but she was not alone. There were some other characters surround
...more
Shannon
Sep 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why are all the "great classics" lead by famed female heroines all too often about personal freedom thru means of sexual compromise leading to abject misery and ultimate demise? I realize it's an accurate depiction of culture and times, however why are Bovary and Moll Flanders the memorable matriarchs of classic literature? See my commentary on the Awakening for similar frustrations. Why aren't there more works about strong women making a difference in their own lives if not those of their famil ...more
Jibran
Perhaps she would have liked to confide in someone about all these things. But how does one express an uneasiness so intangible, one that changes shape like a cloud, that changes direction like the wind? She lacked the words, the occasion, the courage.

Some blame it on novels packed with sentimentalist kitsch; some point out her too-lofty dreams, her too-narrow house, so that the higher she raised the bar of happiness the harder it got to climb; some direct their anger at her reckless financial
...more
Fabian
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The first reading of this novel does no justice to its original intended effect. The book must be reread especially if it was first encountered when the reader’s life was still devoid of romance. Not until the second time around do the details linger, memorably, and the speedy plot that Part One promised is detained for the remaining Parts Two & Three which include photographically-intense colors and emotions felt (or, even not felt at all) by Emma Bovary. The plot is carefully-crafted; it i ...more
Manny
Moira posted a terrific review of Rabbit Redux the other day, and it made me realise something I should have noticed years ago. Rabbit Angstrom is Emma Bovary's literary grandson! As Moira says, Updike was deeply influenced by Nabokov, a fact that had somehow passed me by. Nabokov, in his turn, was a disciple of Flaubert; he famously said that he'd read all Flaubert, in the original French, by the time he was 14. So the family tree is clear enough.

It's one of those cases, though, where things ha
...more
Vessey
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars

I dedicate this review to my dear friends Will, Jeffrey and Sidharth, whose wise words have always inspired me


SPOILERS


"Did she not seem to be passing through life scarcely touching it, and to bear on her brow the vague impress of some divine destiny? She was so sad and so calm, at once so gentle and so reserved, that near her one felt oneself seized by an icy charm...But she was eaten up with desires, with rage, with hate. That dress with the narrow folds hid a distracted heart, of whose tormen
...more
Khush
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition



One can read this novel as many times as one likes. Each time I find new 'things' in it. Since so much has been written about this book that I re-read it again. I reflect on what I have read, feel mesmerized, and intrigued by the text. Of course, I take other writers' critique of this book seriously.

There is this whole body of work that rests on Flaubert's writing. I have read less of Flaubert, but I read a lot about him. It seems like one cannot talk about writing without talking about him. So
...more
Luís C.
Emma is bored. Emma always dream better than it is: better together, best bride, best loved, most celebrated - richer, more adorned.
Emma gets poisoned: her dreams undermine her, her dreams ruin her, her dreams deceive her, her dreams end up poisoning her.
Around it gravitated a small Norman and village world heavily weighted with reality: Homais the agnostic pharmacist, Bournisien the parish priest of the village, Lheureux the mercier with the dangerous credits, Léon Dupuis, the notary clerk who
...more
Renato Magalhães Rocha
When I start reading a book named after one of its characters, I simply can't help the anxiety to meet them. In this case, I was impatient to finally get acquainted with Madame Bovary.

Instead of that, on the opening chapter, we get to see Charles Bovary, the peaceful and shy little boy going to school for the first time. We accompany him while he grows up, study to become a 'doctor' and marry his first wife. After a series of events, he finds and marries his second wife - this time the one - and
...more
Parthiban Sekar
Why was her life so inadequate? Why did everything she leaned on instantly crumble into dust? These were the questions tormenting Emma (Madame Bovary) in her solitude that she never expected to exist in her nuptial life of which she dreamed. Yet, the gaps widened. The barriers grew stronger.

"A man, at least is free; he can explore the whole range of the passions, go wherever he likes, overcome obstacles, savor the most exotic pleasures. But a woman is constantly thwarted. Inert and pliable, she
...more
Jason Pettus
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The CCLaP 100: In which I read a hundred so-called "classics" for the first time, then determine whether or not they deserve the label. Madame Bovary is book #26 of the series.

The story in a nutshell:
Considered by nearly everyone to be one of the best novels ever written, French cynic Gustave Flaubert's 1857 Madame Bovary (originally published serially in 1856) is one of the first fiction projects in history to be as much a deep "character study" as a vehicle for simply propelling an exciting pl
...more
Emily May
In this case, I think it was a bad idea to know stuff about Madame Bovary and Gustave Flaubert before starting the book. My high school English teacher loved to talk about books - and I know how she feels - but the result was quite a few spoilers for a lot of European classics. I think that knowing the author's intentions can be a bad thing and I'm certain that I was unable to keep it from influencing the way I viewed Emma Bovary and her behaviour. If you're curious about these intentions of Fla ...more
MihaElla
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Friedrich Nietzsche is reported to have said: “I go on smiling and laughing for the simple reason that if I don’t smile, I may start crying.” Smiling is a way to cover up tears, that is to say, you shift your energy from the tears to the smile so that you can forget your tears. But, sad story, everybody is full of tears.
‘Madame Bovary’ has been on my mind in the last couple of months-the real reason why I couldn’t say-but trusting the calling I have eventually managed to get it started (as a mat
...more
Rakhi Dalal
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is my third attempt at writing the review for the work. I tried and tried, but found myself at loss with words each time I sat and thought about the character of Emma. Her character, at the outset, is contemptible. A woman, who engages in an ignoble behavior with other man, someone who is not in control of her emotions, someone who doesn’t live in her present, ignores her child and husband for an illicit relationship, lives for her own gratification and is self-indulgent to the point of bei ...more
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Gustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He was born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, in the Haute-Normandie Region of France.

Flaubert's curious modes of composition favored and were emphasized by these peculiarities. He worked in sullen solitude, sometimes occupying a week in the completion of one page, never satisfied with what he had composed,
...more
“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” 1631 likes
“At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.” 634 likes
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