2013 Book #4: Madame Bovary

Oh, Madame Bovary, I dislike you. I dislike you in so many ways. You are not a good person, and you don’t even try to be. You take advantage of everyone around you and think of no one but yourself. Not even your child. Or your husband, who is wildly in love with you and entirely devoted, no matter what you do. (Of course, he doesn’t find out about your…um…indiscretions until it’s too late. But we won’t ruin things for people who haven’t read the book, will we? No, not entirely, anyway. Or maybe we will.

Okay, so Madame Bovary is a very famous novel, and I probably should have read it by now. Or at least I should have been assigned it at some point in college. Neither of these things happened, and here’s all I know about the novel (I’m probably not spoiling it because you probably already know the gist, too): Emma Bovary has an affair. Oh, you say, that’s not all that interesting. Well, I reply, maybe it was in France in the 1850s? Evidently, this stuff went on with women a lot and was generally a problem. Flaubert is considered an expert realist, and he was exposing societal issues. Yeah, whatever.

Emma Bovary is incredibly selfish, and I don’t like her. Which is probably why I didn’t like most of this novel: I couldn’t identify with any of the characters. I liked one part of it because I could identify with her situation. She has an affair with a guy named Rodolphe who just wants to…use her. It seemed to me that she deserved it, but I’ve been in a relationship like that (though I wasn’t cheating on anyone!), and it was terrible. Horrible. Still, her fault for cheating on her husband. He’s also selfish with money. Right after she and Charles are married (still at the beginning of the book), they to to a party the Viscount is holding, and it’s spectacular, ball and all. She’s really impressed and feels entitled to live like he does, so she starts buying things, and once she goes through her husband’s money, she starts taking out loans there’s no way she can pay back. Years later, everything goes to hell.

And that’s Madame Bovary. I didn’t hate all of it – just some of it. I struggled with putting it down permanently several times, but I was determined to finish it, and I did. Hopefully my next book won’t annoy me so much.

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