Book Review – Madame Bovary

Posted: May 26, 2013 in Book Reviews
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No book has ever made me as sad Madame Bovary did. There are two paragraphs in this book. One about love and other about death, the very essence of life. Those two paragraphs are enough to consider this book a masterpiece. When I first read the book I was relatively happy and had a lot of free time. It was tough for me to digest the intricacies involved in it. But when things turned sour and had very few time left this was the first book which popped up on my mind. Oh how good it felt! When you could correlate your sadness with some else’s. It was like hearing a sad song on a sad day. Everyone thinks it feels good. It makes us happy but doesn’t lift our spirits. We are happy because someone else at some distant place is equally sad. A reflection of our mood is what we find solace with.



See how apt the title is. It’s Madame Bovary. It could have been titled “The Wife,” “The woman who cheated on a man” and many more. But such fairly simplistic title like Madame Bovary has so much meaning to it. She is the better half of Bovary. Her identity changes from being Emma, being herself to another man’s wife. Wherever she goes she’s called as doctor’s wife instead of being called Emma. As Bovary is the first guy she gets in touch with, thanks to her dads fracture she falls in love with him but there is no spark in the romance after their initial eagerness to know each other.

Bovary on the other had is a simple person whom Emma sees as a simple minded man after her marriage. Bovary’s first marriage ends as a disaster so he gets very happy after his marriage with Emma. He thinks she too is as happy as he is because she does her household chores without a sigh and keeps quiet all the time. Emma gets more and more irritated as he thinks that she is happy. She wants all the romanticism she read in the book. She satisfies her lure for lust by having an affair with Rodolfe. Her affair with Rodolfe is nothing but an act of pure desperation. As he cheats her she writhes in pain and her life becomes hell. Even though she encounters unimaginable pain we never sympathize with her. We still see her as an individual who cheated her husband.

Then Leon comes back to her life after a short span. She starts having an affair with him. Starts spending judiciously and romanticizes every meeting of theirs at the cost of her own wealth. After a point Leon gets paranoid thinking of Emma. She drives him crazy. She starts selling her assets as well as her husband’s and finally dies in despair.

But in spite of all her wrong deeds there is never a moment where Bovary thinks a thing wrong about his wife. He could either be seen as such a good natured husband or a simple minded fool. My view was something in between. Of all the contrasting characters Bovary is the one whom I felt sorry for. He reminded me of Barry Lyndon but there the relationship between me and Barry and Me was not as close as it was with me and Bovary. I felt distanced from Bovary and he didn’t evoke any sympathy. I was sure that he deserves what is happening to him but here it’s vice versa but still they both were similar characters.

Let’s leave aside the story its intricacies and come to the story telling part. It takes us the first 50 pages to know about whom we are going to read about. The story travels from the small kid suddenly to Bovary then to his first wife then to Emma. Our point of interest keeps on changing and it’s intentionally done. I loved the style.

For Flaubert it took 5 years to write this masterpiece. Those years of toil are there for us to see. There may be a lot of description but you don’t see a single wasted word throughout the book. He seemed to have locked himself in the room, wrote the same passage, same sentence again and again so that everything were in place. Flaubert truly deserves a bow for such a commendable effort.


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