Oh, the perils of reading novels! The great French novelist Gustave Flaubert, (1821-1880) warned husbands to guard against their wives reading them to excess, for see how they turned the head of his foolish heroine, Emma Bovary! In his cautionary tale Madame Bovary, responsibility for adultery, scandal, disgrace, death and the ruination of the entire family can all be laid at the foot of the corrupting influence of the French novel. So beware!
Poor Emma! Seldom can there have been a heroine so naughty and yet so engaging of our sympathies. She’s pretty, of course, and not smart enough to see through the wiles of those who would exploit her; she’s too immature to recognise just how lucky she is to have a husband so devoted. (Though he is a bit dull. And his manners leave a bit to be desired. And he is remarkably naive about his wife’s misbehaviour).
Balzac had a heroine like her too: a foolish woman who flirted with marital peril because she was bored by the niceness of her husband in A Daughter of Eve. Angelique at least had an excuse because her mother’s religiosity had ill-prepared her for life; Emma has no one to blame but herself. (And the novels.)
You can take this novel seriously – and there are no end of serious summaries and analyses out there – or you can simply enjoy it.
I recommend chocolates, cognac, a comfy chair and a nice (not boring) spouse lurking in the background – just in case the power and influence of the novel overwhelms you as you read…
PS 12/3/13 For a proper review, see Bookish Girl.
Author: Gustave Flaubert
Title: Madame Bovary
Translator: Eleanor Marx-Aveling
Publisher: Amazon Kindle
Source: Personal library