Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at a classic, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Madame Bovary was written in 1856, and it was the debut work of the French writer. A quick Wikipedia search tells me it was viewed to be so obscene at the time, due to its raunchy sexual references and adulterous themes, that the writer went to trial over it. He thankfully won, and of course, given the scandal it caused, it went on to become a best seller. Somewhat like a very, very old school 50 Shades of Grey situation, everyone just had to read it to see what all the fuss was about.

The story follows the life of Emma, a young woman who is a romantic and a dreamer. She lives an isolated life in the country, and longs for Paris and big city excitement. She desires to be swept off her feet and live a life of luxury. The reality of her situation is that she has chosen the wrong man to marry; a quiet country doctor named Charles, whom she finds boring. She tries to resolve her life’s frustrations by pursuing various extramarital affairs, and doing the 1856 version of spending up big on her credit card, by getting into debt with a local sales merchant.

I enjoyed this book. As far as classics go, it was an easy read and not too long. The story follows a few threads but very closely. You feel you understand the characters very well, what motivates them, and how their past affects the people that they are now. It was realistic- it gave a real sense of the freedoms and restrictions on people, particularly women, at the time. At times I found myself looking down on Emma’s choices, but I never lost a sense of compassion for her, as Gustave demonstrates the lack of liberties available to people at the time.

There are some things to consider though before reading this book:

First of all, if you are keen on this book for some adult content, I suggest you look elsewhere. Certainly in the modern context, this book is far from scandalous. I believe its most assertive reference to some sexy time is something along the lines of “the carriage swayed heartily” and that’s about it.

Also, I’m certain that the only way for Gustave to get away with publishing the saucy content he was writing, was for their to be a strong moral message within the story. I found that the book did read as a large lesson, a ‘what not to do in marriage’ morality tale, that came off a little heavy handed in 2017. It leaves you with no doubt whatsoever what the moral of the story is, and it is somewhat depressing!

Overall, I think this book is worth the read as it is a tightly written, realistic tale of a frustrated marriage. It leaves a clear impression and will stand alone in your memory as a unique classic. If you don’t enjoy themes of marriage and relationships however, it is one to miss.

Have you read it? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.

Thank you for joining us at TBBC. Happy Reading!

 

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Middlemarch

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at the classic novel Middlemarch, originally published in 1871-2 by English novelist Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pseudonym George Eliot- a name she adopted at the commencement of her writing career.

I admit that, for whatever reason, I had up until this point avoided classic female writers. To my shame, I confess I’ve never read anything by the Bronte sisters, or Jane Austen, or anything in that field. Being a bit of a tomboy by nature, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy books with a romantic emphasis and find them “too girly.” I assumed Middlemarch would be all Lords and Ladies without much substance about the human condition.

I was very very wrong, and am glad that I got over my own prejudice to read Middlemarch.

Middlemarch is one of the most intelligently written novels I’ve ever read. It hides its deep and insightful look into the human condition under the broad heading of “a study of provincial life.” Middlemarch is the name of an English town, and the novel explores the lives of the families and couples that live there- it takes the reader into the intimate life of a number of central characters and details for us their ambitions, their beliefs and their hopes, then surely and relentlessly, shows us how luck, poor choices and life in general can get in the way of everyone’s best efforts. It shows us how people compromise, how people can improve themselves or become worse, and shows how big an impact marriage can play in a person’s life. Some characters serve as cautionary tales whilst others serve as inspiration. Every one of them is relatable in a deeply human way- the careers, technology and language may be different now, but you will see your neighbours and yourself in the characters in this book.

This book came at an opportune point in my life. I’ve been married less than a year, and this book gives you a lot to think about in terms of what makes a marriage successful, the sacrifices involved, and how one person’s choices, both their successes and their mistakes, can impact on the other half of the couple. The themes in the novel made me reflect on what I want to contribute to the marriage, and put my expectations from the commitment into a realistic perspective.

The themes in this book are universal, and Eliot’s insight into human nature is astounding. This book is as relevant now as it was over a hundred years ago, and I have no doubt, will be just as relevant in 100 years time.

This novel is not action packed as such- no bombs go off, no shots fired, but if you invest the time, slowly but surely, it will help you to understand yourself, and people in general, a lot better. This book is big, and whilst I believe anyone could read it and get something out of it, if you are married or are getting married soon, this book will serve to provide something extra- as marriage is one of it’s main subjects.

 

Thank you for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

Moby Dick

Hello Everyone!

Thanks for joining us today at The Boss Book Club!

The Boss Book Club has been in hiatus over the past few months, but a lot of reading has been done in that time. To celebrate the return, over the next five days will be five book reviews- to catch up on what we’ve missed!

Today, the classic American novel Moby Dick.

I’ve attempted to read Moby Dick approximately 4 times over the past five years, each time giving up after the first 50 pages, overwhelmed by the old-style language or the sheer size of the thing. This time I persisted and pushed on, and I’m very grateful I did.

If you’re yet to read the classic but have been tempted to, it’s certainly worth your time. Written by Herman Melville in 1851, the story gives you an immersive look at the life of a whaleman in the 1800s, where great ships would head out to find and slaughter the sperm whale in order to collect and harvest the oil- which was predominantly used to light lamps across the country.

The story is told in first person narrative by Ishmael, a somewhat experienced seaman (don’t you giggle) but a first time whaler. This book shows you the perils and dangers of whaling from his point of view, as well as captures the sense of excitement and comradery that goes along with voyages that could last years.

The other central character is that of Ahab, the ship’s captain, a psychologically tormented man, whose motives in the voyage are entirely centred around the capture of one particular whale- the legendary Moby Dick.

There are many reasons why this book has been given its rightful status as a classic. For me, it shows me everything there is to know about what the whaling life was like. Herman explains everything about the experience in amazing detail, from what the ships were like, to the customs and traditions shipmen had, to the type of equipment they used- even how they would rig and cut the whale. It shows me a life I would never have known about- being a landlubber myself. It does, however, go into lengthy details of what a whale looks like, which I’m sure in its time would have been wonderfully informative, but can be a little dry in the reading now.

The other thoroughly enjoyable element of this book is Ahab, the dark, brooding Captain, and the book explores many religious, philosophical and psychological themes regarding his and Ishmael’s journey as characters.

Many schools and Universities over the years have included this book on the read list as the book is rich in religious and social metaphors and analogies. It reflects the development of America and man’s relationship with himself and God. You can read as much or as little into this novel as you like and I’m sure repeat readings would offer something new each time.

On a final note, if like me you struggle somewhat to get through classic novels, I have a good tip. Each time you start a reading session, start with one chapter of a classic, followed by whatever other novel you like. I found this helped me focus on the chapter I was reading, and after you’re half way through you’ll find it much easier to plough through and finish it!

 

Happy Reading everyone, see you tomorrow for a review of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

 

 

 

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea

It’s time for a seatime adventure!

 

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

 

Today we will be reviewing the classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea!

 

Seeing as this is a classic, here is just a little bit of the history and background in order to appreciate this book properly! Firstly, it is written by Frenchman Jules Verne, who lived from 1828 to 1905, and whose other numerous novels most notably include Around the World in 80 days and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Twenty thousand leagues under the sea was originally published over a two year period as a serial, so readers originally received the tale in installments between 1869 and 1870, with an illustrated version released a year later.

That’s all the basics, so let’s get down to the story.

The story is told in first person perspective by a doctor, Mr M. Annorax after he, his servant Conseil and a friend (a harpooner named Ned) are taken hostage on board a mysterious submarine called The Nautilus. In charge of the vessel is Captain Nemo, a mysterious character with an unknown motive and past.

This book is labelled one of the great adventure novels of all time, and with good reason. If you are a lover of the sea or of exploration then you will be delighted with this book. The book reads as one long, extroadinary adventure of the sights, sounds and occurings of underwater exploration that spans “twenty thousand leagues” or over six months underneath the ocean. Jules Verne uses the character of Annorax, who is a specialist in marine biology, to great effect to provide detailed explanations of the flora and fauna of the underwater world.

These detailed explanations of the various species of fish, crustaceans, seaweed and coral would have certainly captured the imaginations of readers at the time, however I found these detailed listings both a blessing and a curse as I read. At times they would stretch to almost a page long, and if I recognized what he was describing, they helped paint a beautiful scene of what the crew were observing. However, a lot of the time, the names of the various fish were unrecognizable, and unless you went through the effort of looking up every single one, it made for tiresome reading, slowed down the pace of the story, and left me wanting to skim over some of these sections.

This book is classified as a science fiction novel, which surprised me initially, until I found out that Verne’s explanations of the mechanical workings of the The Nautilus were way ahead of their time, and that submarines were only primitive when he wrote this novel. Verne goes into great detail as to how The Nautilus operates, which may be of interest to those who have an eye for technical details in their stories. However, if you have no interest in the mechanics behind submarine operation, these parts may drag for you as well.

Ultimately though, this book provides a unique and special experience for the reader as it is the ultimate underwater adventure story. In today’s world we can fly to any country, board any train, plain, tram, cart or donkey to do it. We can explore mountains, and desserts, and now they’re even talking about commercial trips to the moon in our near future! However, most of us cannot say we’ve ever been in a submarine, or have experienced what it’s like to explore the whole world, landscapes and life that’s at the bottom of the ocean. You will be hard pressed to find a novel that gives you that experience, and that’s why this book remains one of the best of all time.

Another reason this book is great is because it contains one of the most interesting classic literary characters: Captain Nemo. The tension and relationship between Nemo and Annorax runs as almost a second plotline, second only to the exploration of the sea. Is Nemo friend or foe? Villainous loner or solitary genius? Finding out the secret of Nemo will keep you interested from beginning to end.

I will be honest and say it was a bit of a hard slog to read at times, mainly because of the density of the language and the lengthy descriptions, however once I had completed it I was very glad that I had. This book remains the classic underwater adventure, and opens you to a whole world that many of us would not otherwise experience. Jules Verne is the ultimate storyteller of life under the sea.

 

Thank you for reading, see you next time on The Boss Book Club!

 

Did you enjoy 20000 Leagues Under the Sea? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!