Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame BovaryMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Published by Oxford University Press

I haven’t read a lot of the “classics” and as a result of not being well-read in this category of novels, I typically find myself intimidated by them and have a preconceived notion that I won’t enjoy the ones I do pick up. Inevitably, though, when I read them I surprise myself with how much I enjoy the experience of reading these classic books – they are considered the “classics” for a reason, after all! Such was the case with Madame Bovary – I found the book so refreshingly current and saw so many parallels to issues that people (well, women mostly) face on a regular basis in today’s society.

Here we have this woman who is confined by her time period and status in life (female) to a life of essentially being owned by a man. For most of her life, that man is her father, and then she marries Mr. Bovary, and he begins taking ownership of her. Although technically she is an independent human and citizen, the world doesn’t see women that way during this time in history, and she certainly doesn’t feel that she has any independence or ability to make her own choices whatsoever. So what does she do? She rebels, of course. She falls in love with several men who are not her husband, bucks social norms and her own wedding vows, and carries on several affairs without her husband’s knowledge. She comes dangerously close to getting caught several times, neglects her child to continue relationships with these guys, and comes to look at her husband with a mixture of disgust, anger, and of course regret.

Ultimately her story is one where you can see that having zero power in life can cause someone to do terrible things, whether it be because she was depressed, simply fell in love with the wrong people, or, was frankly bored out of her mind. But I saw so many parallels to the way women have been treated throughout history, and how the lack of access to power, information, money, etc. in even today’s world leads people down dangerous paths and causes people to make choices that are not in their best interest.

I missed the book club meeting for this one, but I’m sure the ladies in my book club had a lot to talk about because there’s so much here to think about and discuss. I’m really glad I read Madame Bovary and it’s one more time I need to remind myself that classics are deemed classic literature for a reason. I definitely need to experience more of them.


9 thoughts on “Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert”

  1. I love reading classics, and Madame Bovary is right up there at the top of the list. They are classics because they stay relevant no matter how old they are. Plus, I sometimes think that writers of classics knew how to write a story. There are excellent modern writers, but I think that sometimes modern writers fall back onto gimmicks or “the big twist” to generate interest and excitement. Classics are methodical, some would even say slow, but they develop characters, setting, and plot like no other. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. What is next on your list of classics to tackle?

  2. It’s been years since I’ve read Madame Bovary. I loved it then but I would love to read it again now that I’m 20 years older. I feel like I would have an entirely different perspective.

  3. I loved your review – I recently reread this (I was going through a classics phase for a few months), and I think you’re so right in terms of how relevant it still is. And just a fun fact, after I finished reading Madam Bovary I was looking up information about it and saw that when it was first published it was immediately embraced by the bourgeois women to the point that many were claiming Emma Bovary was based on their lives! Seems like maybe an odd thing to claim…

    Looking forward to reading some of your other reviews!

    – Jenna

    1. That IS super interesting! I’m not sure that I would want to claim Emma being based on my own life but I bet at the time it was a radical act to do so. Nice to “meet” you!

  4. I always feel like I missed the boat on this one. I couldn’t stand Emma Bovary. While I get the whole rebelling thing, I felt like she rebelled in a way that could only hurt everyone.

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