Illustration without text on page Emma as a transvestite at the ball Madame Bovary takes place in provincial northern France, near the town of Rouen in Normandy. Charles Bovary is a shy, oddly dressed teenager arriving at a new school where his new classmates ridicule him. Emma is a beautiful, poetically dressed young woman who has received a "good education" in a convent. She has a powerful yearning for luxury and romance inspired by reading popular novels. Her father gives his consent, and Emma and Charles marry. Charles means well but is plodding and clumsy.
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Start your review of Madame Bovary Write a review Shelves: fiction , the-continent , romantical , 19th-century , tres-francais , examined-lives , woundedsoulsandfragileflowers , grand-opera Oh, Emma.
Emma, Emma, Emma. Darling, why must you make it so easy? No, dear, for once I dont 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 dont 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 doesnt really do a thing to disprove Oh, Emma. It makes it easy for people to plausibly dismiss this story with things like this: If it makes you feel better, dear, you are hardly the only one.. Your other compatriots in 19th century repressed female misery receive similar treatment: It is easy to despise you, Emma.
What goes around comes around ,as the wise chanteur sayeth. But in the end, you won, Emma. Did everyone read that profile about Dan Savage this weekend about infidelity and marriage? I did. Her eyes are on the cover of this book, and the more I looked at them, the more disturbed I got. This is a novel about how reality can look just the same to you from one day to the next, but to your partner, it can have turned into a hell or a heaven, even if it is the same Tuesday routine as the last one.
You never really know what the person across from you is thinking. How do you really know what motivates someone? Are they with you because they have made a resolution to be? Are they there with you because the stars shine in your eyes?
Are they perfect to you because they are about to leave? Marriage, for better or worse, no matter what people say, adds so many complications. It is the commitment that people twist and bend over and around in so many different contortions to try to make it work- because it is a marriage, because it means something. How difficult is it to trust that people are simply what they say they are? Charles is simple and straightforward and rather sweet- and Emma hates him for it. She smiles and smiles and smiles… and then cheats on him, bankrupts him, tries to prostitute herself and kills herself rather than spend another day with him.
This is the most anxiety inducing book I have ever read about marriage. Emma is the incarnation of the expectations of the institution at the time- all-or-nothing.
Madame Bovary is destroyed because she tries to put her all into Charles, then Rodolphe and then Leon, and none of them can withstand it. That is not the ideal. But why do we hold that against her? He talks about how you have to be willing to change a lot and make a huge effort to keep the deal of monogamy alive. It actually made me think, of all things, a bit about Planet of Slums. That book talks about the millions of people who have been born outside the system, in illegal settlements to parents who are illegal themselves, and who are not, in fact, ignored by the system.
They never get into the system in the first place- a system that is not built to cope with the mind-blowing poverty that arises from its excrement. And in case anyone finds her head-in-the-sand refusal to face the world overly childish or impossible to relate to: The endless line of irresponsible credit she takes out from the scam artist down the street in order to feed her fantasies about the way she believes her life should look has obvious immediate relevance to America in the pre financial crisis era.
In some ways, the existential crisis Flaubert is trying to outline here: between a solidly practical, profit-and-advancement outlook on life and a sensibility that at least tries to aspire to something higher, even if it is unaffordable or impossible, is the distilled essence of the push and pull of American partisan politics.
Monsieur Homais would have done very well on Wall Street. Emma can be read as being more American than French, really. Emma is a true believer. Failing making it into her fairy tale, she wants to escape where she is- to somewhere else, anywhere else.
By the end, I felt like I was suffocating right along with her. Emma adds the present place, the present time, the present person you are with. She really is willing to try anything to escape. On her deathbed, as she pleaded to die, my heart was racing along with hers and the whole finale read like a blockbuster last action scene with explosives and severed limbs flying. Every chapter there was less and less light until she was curled up in a ball in solitary confinement with no hope of escape.
In the Count of Monte Cristo, we root for the hero to get thrown over the side of a cliff in a body bag because it is his only hope of escape. How could we do less for poor Emma? She deserves her chance to make it to the place she always hoped for- even if priests and businessmen argue whether she got there over her corpse. Flaubert handles his prose deftly, precisely, and with a deceptively commonplace hand.
Parts of this novel are spine-tinglingly sordid, others wrench out your gut, most of it can be drearily, boringly, mind-numbingly quotidian, and every so often, a gem shines through that makes you turn around and look at someone you had thought you were done being interested in.
And the Tuesday before that. And today. And probably next Monday. The morning when you woke up vowing that today it was all going to be different, that afternoon when you just wanted to die, the evening when you forgot it all making dinner and laughing about that thing you saw on the internet. Yet, even your complaining makes me want to hug you. I guess what I am saying is why are you so awesome, Monsieur Flaubert?
Doamna Bovary – Madame Bovary (2014)