Preface: With this post I would like to inform you that from now onwards this blog will cover more TV and Book content reviews. I like movies and I like TV, so why not books?
Since the beginning of the year I have been on a mission. The mission is to read as many classic books as I can. So far, I have managed to read Melville, Joyce, Shakespeare, de Saint-Exupéry, Orwell to name a few. And recently I have just finished reading the French classic Madame Bovary and decides to write my first book review about it.
Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary tells the twisted tale of Emma Bovary – a beautiful, naive, adulterous and irritating French belle. At the beginning, Emma is portrayed as a naive and ambitious young woman in a small village in France. Judging by her ambition, it’s no puzzle she ended up marrying Dr Charles Bovary and thus acquiring his last name: Madame Bovary.
Emma thought her life would be perfect once she is out of the village. She doesn’t particularly has a problem with her village lifestyle, though. She lives with her father who adores her very much and everything seems to be alright. But no, Emma wants more. She deserves more.
Her marriage to Charles begins as dream-like. Emma is happy, she is now a wife of a doctor. However, things never stays the same for Emma. After the delicious stay-in with certain rich patients of Charles, Emma craves for luxurious beauty. And since she and her husband belong to a middle class and not the royalty, Emma sulks in her despair; and this leads to moving to Yonville, another town in Northern France.
As it turns out, Yonville is much better for Emma. Sure the sleepy town doesn’t have much compare to Paris, but in Yonville there is Leon, the young lawyer that pique the interest of our Madame. Are they going to hit it off? Wait, is she going to cheat on Charles? Bow chicka wow wow.
Throughout reading Madame Bovary, I just can’t help but loving Emma and her foolish attempts. This woman is clearly on psychological fire. First, she tries to cheat on Charles with Leon, but that doesn’t work out as she has planned. Then, she deliberately (and desperately) falls into another affair with the cunning, Rudolphe and you know it doesn’t end there.
I understand the resentment for Emma Bovary, heck she is not likeable at all. But the way I see it, and trust me there are lots of way to see it, Emma is a metaphor to the bourgeois lifestyle that inspired the novel. The bourgeois here are those nouveau riche, or simply new rich class that never feel satisfied with what they own and always wanting more. Thus, the character of Emma who possessed everything, from beauty to money, in her possession still lack the appreciation for what she had. Did Flaubert take it too far with Emma? No, because we are living in the same world and we have met the same people like Emma. In short, Madame Bovary is an indirect mockery to all of us who are never grateful for what we have.
Of course, the book’s theme is also heavily fused with Flaubert’s deep longing on romanticism, which can be overwhelming to some and treasured to many.
The romanticism explore here also interest me. When one think of romantic they might think of The Notebook or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which is far off from the romanticism Gustave Flaubert has painted. No, the romantic aspect of Madame Bovary, in my opinion, is the palpable affair between Flaubert and his words (he suffers from peculiar OCD, where he needs the obligation to find the right words). Despite reading the English translation by Eleanor Marx Aveling, it’s obvious to me how impressive and powerful the original version would be like.
The original French version of Madame Bovary comprises of 4500 pages but got chop down to 300-something pages upon publishing (which you can find online but in French). And I won’t lie If I say I am not tempted to read those monstrous ‘sexy’ pages, however, I have to settle with what I have read.
Madame Bovary might get a little too real in the end with the harsh ending, which leaves certain sour taste in my mouth; but if you know reality, then you know it sucks and you have to hand it to Flaubert who got it right.