Let’s Get Literal – Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 59/100Title: Madame Bovary
Author: Gustave Flaubert
Year: 1856
Country: France

I said after finishing reading Song of Solomon that I wanted to read something a bit lighter. Granted, that would leave me with most things in the wider world of literature, but I’m not entirely sure I really got that much lighter in tone with Madame Bovary. I think I misinterpreted the blurb for this book and expected something a little less… tragic than what I ended up with. Still, we’re here now and this is another book crossed off.

To start with, Madame Bovary is the story of Charles Bovary – a decidedly average man from a decent background who scrapes his way through a form of medical school to become something just shy of a doctor. He feels more like a medicine man than a proper general practitioner… which is why he never should have done the club foot operation later in the novel, but I’m not going into that as those passages left me feeling nauseated.

The book then pivots a few chapters in, after the death of his first wife, to be about Charles’ second wife Emma. The bulk of the book then becomes about the misery and the boredom of being married to a simple small town not-quite doctor and then, having been invited to one party held by some local aristocrats, the yearning for a more exciting and more decadent life.

Emma Bovary is one of those characters who you end up both feeling incredibly sorry for and also want to shake very hard for what she ends up doing. The whole book is this downward spiral of affairs and getting into debt that leads to a tragic and foregone conclusion. Few people come out of this book alive or not permanently damaged in some way. There’s gruesome deaths and a lot of, what we’d now see as, depression. As a book it didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped and, by the end, I was getting a bit tired of some of the more repetitive elements of her behaviour – but over the last few weeks I have kept thinking about it – so Flaubert did a good job in that department.

After some quite heavy books I think I need to read something truly of a different tone that won’t end with me getting to work and having my brain feeling exhausted. So, it’ll be a return to the comics list for a little while as I start reading a manga that I have been meaning to get into for a while. As long as I get a seat on the train that is…

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