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!