Mar 19, 2008

Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert

A few days ago I was looking through my shelves for unwanted books in too poor condition to swap to drop at the Book Thing next week, when I noticed a tattered copy of Madame Bovary sitting among the TBR clutter. It came from the same box at my mother's house that coughed up The Gulag Archipalego. I picked it up and thought: I really ought to read this. It's a classic.

So I tried. I made it through 120 pages about a pretty young wife who finds herself married to a country doctor. He's quite content with life, she's bored silly. He loves her very much, she finds him dull and repugnant. She longs to experience romance and emotional thrills. For a while she resists her feelings, because of society's strict moral code; then gives in and has several secret affairs.

One night when my husband couldn't sleep I said "let me tell you what I'm reading" and began to relate the story to him. He was snoring within minutes. Yesterday I made another attempt to read a dozen more pages, and found my attention seriously wandering. So I skimmed through the rest, of Emma Bovary's second affair, her husband's failure, her ultimate tragic end. (Reminded me very much of Anna Karenina, which I read in high school). Maybe it was a poor translation (Lowell Bair)? maybe the subject just isn't shocking to modern readers anymore? I know this is great literature, meticulously constructed by the author, full of symbolism, details and profound portrayals of human nature. But I just couldn't sympathize with or like any of the characters, and I got bored. I seem to be in the minority here, so if you want to read great reviews about this book, check out A Guy's Moleskine Notebook or A Reader's Journal. They give Madame Bovary its due, where I cannot.

Abandoned ...0/5... 303 pages, 1857

More opinions at:
Books 'n Border Collies
Ardent Reader

6 comments:

Lezlie said...

That's nice of you to put links to other reviews that enjoyed the book. It is good to hear both sides. I read this a long time ago and I remember little about it except that I didn't like it either. It's one that I keep thinking I'll go back to later to see if I feel differently at all.

Lezlie

Nyssaneala said...

Have you noticed The Book Thing seems a bit sparse lately? I wonder if they have had a drop in donations?

I'm sorry you didn't like Madame Bovary. This is one of those classics I've been meaning to read for years, and never get around to actually doing it.

Jeane said...

Lezlie- I'd be interested to hear if a second read went better. Personally, I don't feel inclined to try again.

Nyssaneala- It did seem sparse last time I went; but I just assumed that was because I arrived near the end of the weekend. The Children's bins (which I always dig through for my toddler) were nearly empty.

writer2b said...

I remember reading this in college, and having a similar reaction. It was hard to care much about the characters. (The teacher was unnervingly high-strung, too, which didn't help...)

I agree that adding the link to other reviews was a nice touch.

Gentle Reader said...

jeane--I remember reading this years ago, and finding Emma Bovary a most annoying character. I wonder if I'd have more empathy for her now... Nah, probably not :)

Trish said...

I think I have a copy of ths book--but if it's the book I'm thinking of, it's very old and probably could not withstand a reading of it. I've had no desire, actually, to read this book. I've found that the shock-value for certain books for me is rather low (at least "those types" of books). I read The Awakening last year and appreciated it, but found it sad rather than shocking. Chuck Palahniuk tends to shock me, but I can only take such stuff in very very small doses.