Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
(Oxford World's Classics)


11 Critic Reviews

It was, and is, the least romantic book I have ever read. If I have come to love it , it is because now I am half a century older, and not trapped in a house and kitchen, I can equably sympathise with the central person in the book, who is its author - endlessly inventive, observant, and full of life.


One of the acknowledged masterpieces of 19th century realism, Madame Bovary is revered by writers and readers around the world, a mandatory stop on any pilgrimage through modern literature. Flaubert's legendary style, his intense care over the selection of words and the shaping of sentences, his unmatched ability to convey a mental world through the careful selection of telling details, shine on every page of this marvelous work. Now the award-winning translator Margaret Mauldon has produced a modern translation of this classic novel, one that perfectly captures the tone that makes Flaubert's style so distinct and admired.
Madame Bovary scandalized its readers when it was first published in 1857. And the story itself remains as fresh today as when it was first written, a work that remains unsurpassed in its unveiling of character and society. It tells the tragic story of the romantic but empty-headed Emma Rouault. When Emma marries Charles Bovary, she imagines she will pass into the life of luxury and passion that she reads about in sentimental novels and women's magazines. But Charles is an ordinary country doctor, and provincial life is very different from the romantic excitement for which she yearns. In her quest to realize her dreams she takes a lover, Rodolphe, and begins a devastating spiral into deceit and despair. And Flaubert captures every step of this catastrophe with sharp-eyed detail and a wonderfully subtle understanding of human emotions.
Malcolm Bowie, a leading authority on French literature, explores Flaubert's genius in his masterly introduction to this must-have book for all lovers of great literature.

About Gustave Flaubert

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GUSTAVE FLAUBERT was born in Rouen in 1821, the son of a prominent physician. A solitary child, he was attracted to literature at an early age, and after his recovery from a nervous breakdown suffered while a law student, he turned his total energies to writing. Aside from journeys to the Near East, Greece, Italy, and North Africa, and a stormy liaison with the poetess Louise Colet, his life was dedicated to the practice of his art. The form of his work was marked by intense aesthetic scrupulousness and passionate pursuit of le mot juste; its content alternately reflected scorn for French bourgeois society and a romantic taste for exotic historical subject matter. The success of Madame Bovary (1857) was ensured by government prosecution for “immorality”; Salammbô (1862) and The Sentimental Education (1869) received a cool public reception; not until the publication of Three Tales (1877) was his genius popularly acknowledged. Among fellow writers, however, his reputation was supreme. His circle of friends included Turgenev and the Goncourt brothers, while the young Guy de Maupassant underwent an arduous literary apprenticeship under his direction. Increasing personal isolation and financial insecurity troubled his last years. His final bitterness and disillusion were vividly evidenced in the savagely satiric Bouvard and Pécuchet, left unfinished at his death in 1880.LYDIA DAVIS has been a MacArthur Fellow, National Book Award finalist, and Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. She was awarded the 2003 French-American Foundation Translation Prize for her translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way and lives near Albany, New York.JESSICA HISCHE is a letterer, illustrator, typographer, and web designer. She currently serves on the Type Directors Club board of directors, has been named a Forbes Magazine "30 under 30" in art and design as well as an ADC Young Gun and one of Print Magazine's "New Visual Artists". She has designed for Wes Anderson, McSweeney's, Tiffany & Co, Penguin Books and many others. She resides primarily in San Francisco, occasionally in Brooklyn.
Published April 8, 2004 by OUP Oxford. 372 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Madame Bovary
All: 11 | Positive: 11 | Negative: 0


Above average
Reviewed by AS Byatt on Jul 26 2002

It was, and is, the least romantic book I have ever read. If I have come to love it , it is because now I am half a century older, and not trapped in a house and kitchen, I can equably sympathise with the central person in the book, who is its author - endlessly inventive, observant, and full of life.

Read Full Review of Madame Bovary (Oxford World's... | See more reviews from Guardian


Above average
Reviewed by Nick Fraser on Nov 28 2010

But the book has become one of the few works of fiction that I read again and again, decade by decade, and each time it seems different...Emma's passions extend to shopping as well as sex, and the connection is spelled out by Davis's spare prose.

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The Uncustomary Book Review

Above average
Reviewed by Kat Kiddles on Oct 11 2011

While the first line of the book allows for a convincingly boyish description of Charles’ first day at school (with tackily flamboyant cap in tow), are we to believe that one of his schoolmates then decides to stalk him, his wife and his future…

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Inverarity is not a Scottish village

Above average
on Nov 11 2012

Madame Bovary is indeed a fine work of anti-romantic realism. As a novel, everything fits together perfectly: it's not overly wordy, doesn't go off into irrelevant subplots, and doesn't rely on extreme coincidences or implausible twists. All things which were pretty standard in other novels of that time.

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The Mookse and the Gripes

Reviewed by Trevor Berrett on Jan 23 2009

The beautiful way Flaubert describes the way Emma is truly feeling...shows how the book roams around the nuances and subtleties of love (and many other things), at one time critical, at another time with deep esteem...Not only did I find this book worth reading once; it could very well reach the rarified heights of being one of my perrenial reads.

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Reading World

Above average
Reviewed by Susan on Jul 27 2012

On re-reading, I was struck by just how sad a life Emma lived. She hasn’t even the excuse that she married the wrong man and then met the great love of her life. Emma was just a bored woman on the prowl for a little excitement...The marvelously detailed writing will sweep you back into the small-town nineteenth century French world.

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Prolific Living

Above average
on Feb 13 2010

I applaud Flaubert’s remarkable candor and ability to precisely portray the unfulfilled desires, cravings, and yearnings of a selfish woman bound to a dull and kind husband for whom she shows no trace of emotion, and I do that without necessarily applauding Emma’s actions.

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Tony's Book World

Above average
Reviewed by Anokatony on Oct 20 2013

Besides the intriguing story of Emma Bovary, “Madame Bovary” offers wonderful colorful detailed set pieces, first about life in rural northern France, then about small town life...then about the glamorous high society life. These vignettes fit in with the story, but are interesting enough to stand on their own.

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Above average
Reviewed by Ad Blankestijn on Feb 09 2012

Madame Bovary is in fact the greatest study in alienation and boredom in world literature...Emma Bovary is of course a rather vain and silly woman, she is caught in the web of her own actions without the possibility of being saved. Still, we do care for her, because she is the only character in the novel who dreams of higher things...

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Pieces Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Michelle on Jul 01 2008

Reading the novel again was fun. I still feel sorry for Emma, for her silly selfishness and desperate scheming, but I think Flaubert did something much more than write a scandalous account of adultery...He characterized the maudlin yearnings of a mediocre bourgeoisie while criticizing the superficial sentimentality of mass culture.

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Frisbee: A Book Journal

Above average
Reviewed by Kat on Sep 29 2012

I finally read the novel in the very smooth Lydia Davis translation, and for the first time appreciated the beautiful language...One of the greatest scenes in literature is certainly her suicide. I’ll always remember how she stuffs the powdery arsenic into her mouth...I very much enjoyed Madame Bovary this time...

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Katrina Bernardo

Katrina Bernardo 5 Sep 2013

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