My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What could I possibly say about Madame Bovary that hasn’t been said? It’s a classic. As the preface of my edition puts it, it’s the ‘first sex and shopping novel.’
Gustave takes his time pulling you into the story, but by 150 pages in things are zinging right along. His writing is wonderful throughout the book, but you don’t really come to appreciate it until you’re fully invested in the characters.
One point of caution: I found the story to be almost ‘ho-hum’ at certain points. There are too many Emma Bovary’s in our culture, now: Carmella Soprano, Betty Friedan, the desperate housewives, that one woman in that movie you saw. But I’m glad I didn’t stop! It’s worth it to read to the end, to watch the tragedy unfold in such exquisite detail.
But this is perhaps the reason to read the book: it’s a blueprint. You read it, and it takes you back to another century, when things were supposedly simpler, and you discover characters experiencing the same human elations and sufferings that we experience today.
There was no ‘simpler time.’ People are the same everywhere, and always have been.