Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: A Boredom Akin to Hell

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It was time for a classic, so I chose Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Like with any classic, it takes a bit to settle in with it, getting used to the language and style of writing. I always have to concentrate on them a bit more, so that I don’t read two pages and realize I have no idea what happened in them. This one wasn’t too bad with the superfluous style and language typical of 19th century European literature. Emma Bovary is unhappily married to a “devoted, clumsy provincial” [good description on the back of the book!] doctor. To revolt against her mundane life, she has affairs and buys a lot of things on credit, which, of course, leads to her demise.

Flaubert uses excellent language to describe the downfall of Emma throughout the novel–she never loses her dreams of ecstasy and love, but they put her out of touch with reality. All the characters were weak-minded and selfish, to some degree, so their individual outcomes were not surprising. Pieces of the story were slow–mostly all the descriptions of society’s little events that did not seem to have much role in the story’s progression. But, these gave a more complete view of the environment surrounding the characters, so that they weren’t just set against an empty backdrop. Overall, not too bad…seemed like a typical English class book (though my high school was seriously lacking in the English department, so I, of course, never had to read it).

2 comments:

colin said…

When I first started reading this book in high school I fought it. After I complained about it to my teacher he responded, “There is a large group of scholars that consider this the best novel ever.”

I read the rest of the book and realized I was a brat. “Madame Bovary” is an amazing novel with clever uses of so many literary forms. If one feels obligated to read classics such as “The Great Gatsby” and “East of Eden” then surely “Madame Bovary” must also be on that list.

Salvatore said…

Agreed, ‘Bovary’ is always stunning and a perennial favourite.