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Madame Bovary

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  299,171 ratings  ·  13,539 reviews
Madame Bovary is the debut novel of French writer Gustave Flaubert, published in 1856. The character lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. When the novel was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, public prosecutors attacked the novel for obscenity. The resulting trial in Janua ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 329 pages
Published 2004 by Oxford University Press (first published December 15th 1856)
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Nuno R. 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 h…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:

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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Average rating 3.69  · 
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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
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Mar 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
(Book 886 from 1001 Books) - 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 receive
Petra: all work & no play makes you poor.On hiatus
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
Although it took me a while to finish and I read it in two languages and the same number of formats I can award it no less than 5 stars. When I was a teenager I avoided anything classic and this book was specifically on my black list. I thought that one book about an adulteress who does not end well is enough. I was wrong about running away from classics and also wrong about this being another Anna Karenina. While in this one Emma Bovary takes not one but two lovers, the drama is more around wan ...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
Wouldn't this novel by Flaubert be out of date today, where adultery no longer exists as such and is never called that? Nevertheless, human passions and impulses have hardly changed; they are born and appear much faster in the era of everything connected. Thus, Emma could nowadays find all kinds of lovers on the web but would undoubtedly not end up better than in the work of Flaubert. The novel's richness seems to be in the slow but sure, inevitable progression of the characters' becoming. Emma ...more
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
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Kat Kennedy
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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
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
Jo (The Book Geek)
Madame Bovary was a real treat. I'm glad that I chose to read it at this point in my life, and not any younger, as I'm not entirely sure that I would have been appreciative of the story, and the richness of the characters. I now know, why Madame Bovary is such a popular novel.

The story centres on Emma, a woman that believes in dreaming, passionate love and adventure, and when she marries Charles Bovary, it is evident to her, that she is not going to get that with him. So, she seeks her needs els
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, Flau
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
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 gre
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
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, reviewed
My fifth or sixth reading of my favorite novel in my favorite translation, that of Lydia Davis, this time read simultaneously with Nabokov's class lecture on the book which made for a transcendent experience. I love the Davis translation best, I will never tire of Madame Bovary and once it and Nab's lectures were published my love for Flaubert's masterpiece increased exponentially.

Madame Bovary is a triumph of structure and symbolism, in my opinion the best-written novel of all time, each word p
Jim Fonseca
Aug 02, 2022 rated it really liked it
Ah, Madame Bovary. Isn't that the one where she has an affair and kills herself by jumping in front of a train? No, that's one by Tolstoy. But I'm thinking of adding a new Goodreads shelf: “Old classics I thought surely I had read years ago, but I hadn't.”

There are thousands of reviews so I'll keep this short.


Our two main characters are remarkably unlikable. Emma marries a divorced small town doctor who's a widower. Isn't there a French expression somewhere: ‘How can a woman love a man who ador
Paul Bryant
Jun 09, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-lit, novels
I read this a long time ago but the only thing I could remember about it was that I read it a long time ago. Also that some lady was married to some really boring guy. This turned out to be true. Madame Bovary was like the young Juliette Binoche from Three Colours

And her husband was like Jessie Plemons from The Power of the Dog

He is the guy who the instant he gets married puts on fifty pounds and ages 20 years so it is not to anyone’s surprise that the hot tomato that is his wife gets so she gla
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
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Madame Bovary is a tragedy. It tells the story of Emma Bovary who lived a tumultuous life between real and imagined, and whose end arouses more pity than scorn. Emma is a complex character. She is vain for sure, silly in certain ways, and bold and impetuous in some of her conduct. Her idea of love is misguided. "Love, she believed, should come upon you suddenly, with thunderclaps and blinding flashes of lightning, bursting like a hurricane out of the skies and into your life, turning everything ...more
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 is bo ...more
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 financi
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
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For some strange reason this got deleted from my books, so I'm just adding it again.

Along with Les Misérables, Madame Bovary was one of the first French classics that I read, and Emma B. certainly left her mark. There are so many great reviews of this, and it's not surprising, as it evokes so much within it's readers, and will continue to do so. I might post a proper review at some point, but for now all I will say is that it really is one of the greatest and most important novels ever written.
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
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
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Gustave Flaubert 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, violently tormenting his brain fo

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