A Classic: Madame Bovary: A Tale of Provincial Life

Madame Bovary 2

Author: Gustave Flaubert

Translation by Lydia Davis

Originally published in 1857. This translation was published in 2010

Somehow I missed reading this book in either high school or college. Its a classic that’s been floating around me for quite some time. I finally pinned myself down and put it on this year’s must-read classics list. I read it in both print and audio.

I must say to begin with, it was nothing like what I thought it would be. I’ve heard the term “Madame Bovary” used to describe a party girl or someone living a licentious life style. Maybe, if Emma Bovary lived in Paris and had lots of money, she could have pulled it off.

But, Emma was a farm girl who married a doctor and lived in the country. Basically she was a very unhappy person who sought happiness in something new. First it was the convent, then marriage, motherhood, affairs with other men and the spending of exorbitant amounts of money she didn’t have. Of course, it doesn’t end well.

It sounds like a depressing story, doesn’t it? The story, and especially Emma, were depressing. However, (and its a big however) I enjoyed the book. I couldn’t stop reading. What made this so engaging for me was the descriptive writing of Gustave Flaubert. I felt I was right there in the room or the village or countryside — wherever the story was happening, I could see, smell, feel, touch and taste everything. All the details were amazing! And, he did all that with words.

I’m really sorry I didn’t read this book earlier in my reading life. The author’s use of his words may have spoiled me for other genres. I will recommend this book to you but not if you are young. I’m not recommending ir to my teenaged granddaughter, for instance. Someone more mature, plus someone who doesn’t suffer from melancholia. Definitely read this if you are love the expert use if words,

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4 Responses to A Classic: Madame Bovary: A Tale of Provincial Life

  1. This book didn’t do much for me when I read it in high school (or college?), but several years ago I read the new Lydia Davis translation and was utterly blown away. Even wrote a quick comparing passages from both translations…

    Madame Bovary: Why Translation Matters

  2. I don’t think that link works, but you might be able to copy and paste this:


  3. Mystica says:

    Interesting! thanks for the review.

  4. My mom just recently listened to Madame Bovary on audio for the first time and also enjoyed it! Ever since then, I have been meaning to get to it, and your review pushes it even higher on my list – thanks!


    2015 Big Book Summer Challenge

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