I spent the past three weeks reading Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. This is way longer than I usually take to read books, but I was also reading it for class, and it’s super dense. I found myself bored and uninterested, but, at the same time, I was enthralled by the historical context that the novel carried.
Madame Bovary follows Emma Bovary through her series of affairs whilst struggling with her husband, Charles, as their debt grows larger and larger thanks to her fanciful dreams of being wealthy.
I’m a bit biased, because it’s a bit difficult for me to get through older books. That being said, having read it for class and being able to examine it during each session really gave me a second perspective on it. Bovary was the “first modern novel”, streamlining the storytelling process (by the standards of the time, certainly not by today’s standards) and telling the story as it is without addressing the reader.
Flaubert goes into great detail with imagery and scene—when needed—and in a time before television, I’m sure his descriptions were spot on. Readers could see what he was trying to depict in great detail. Readers still can see what he’s trying to depict. His descriptions, while, at times, way over-the-top and tediously boring, are full of such vivid detail that, if reading closely, would give anyone the most pristine pictures.
This review isn’t long, because I’ve spent the past four weeks with this book and I’m ready to let it go. But I will say that, in hindsight, I’m glad I read it. Even though it may not have been the most enjoyable book, I learned so much from it (which usually happens that way, huh?). It’s one of those books that everyone should read once, just to say they’ve read it and to see where the modern novel came from. This revolutionary read isn’t for everyone (myself included), but it definitely has some lessons to be learned within its yellowed pages.
*NOTE: The edition pictured is the one I read, as with all of my other reviews. There are plenty of other translations to read from.