Thursday, 28 October 2010
I read Madame Bovary as part of a read-along hosted by Nonsuch books. Please do check out the other reviews and thoughts on this novel.
Madame Bovary is a complex character and my attitudes and thoughts towards her changed in various ways throughout the novel. Emma is someone who is unsatisfied with what life has to offer a women in her position at that time which is something that a modern reader could surely understand. But instead of being an intelligent women who tries to forge her own happiness in her own way, she is instead quite often very silly, vain and selfish. Her interests in affairs, material goods and religion prove ultimately without substance and happiness remains ever elusive. While I could understand her, her behaviour and the fact that she was not in a bad position compared with other women at that time meant that I could never feel sorry for her.
The other characters in the small town of Yonville-l'Abbaye are all unlikeable in their own way from Emma’s husband who is pretty hopeless overall, to the shopkeeper who ruins Emma into debt deliberately for his own profits and Emma’s lover Rodolphe who simply plays Emma like a fiddle for his own amusement. I am assuming that Flaubert was holding the mirror up to a certain part of French society here and unfortunately I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on how effective Flaubert was in this regard but I did wonder if Flaubert liked any of his characters at all. I'm guessing not.
Quite a lot of people have complained that this novel bored them. I think, the self-destructive behaviour of Emma does run in a loop which is repeated a few times until her untimely demise. This repeated unrepentant behaviour and the slow pace of novel in general meant that I find it understandable if people do complain that they found it boring although I personally didn't.
This novel certainly raised questions for me and made me ponder about the Madame Bovarys of today but the unlikeable characters and the overall slow pace makes it unlikely that I will pick this one up again. After saying that, I have found that the people reading this for the second time for the read-along seem to have got more out of the experience and this book was not what I was expecting at all (in a good way).
Posted by Jess