This indelible portrait of a beautiful woman’s aching lust for more—more romance, more glamour, more fun—and her resulting tragic demise, is widely considered one of the finest novels ever written. Flaubert’s refusal to condemn his adulterous heroine, a woman trapped as much by circumstance as by her own boundless desires, scandalized nineteenth-century France and resulted in a trial on charges of obscenity. But it is the beauty of the novel’s prose, the great care it takes with characters major and minor, and the relentless but elegant thrust of its narrative, that puts Madame Bovary in a class by itself.
In the story of a provincial doctor and his wife’s tawdry affairs, Gustave Flaubert found the stuff of great literature. A perfect novel about imperfect people, Madame Bovary is the rare classic that exceeds expectations and feels as fresh now as it did the day it was written.
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Reflecting on the bourgeoisie of France in the early nineteenth century, Madame Bovary is Flaubert’s commentary on the wealthy’s romantic delusions and the impact such delusions have on the lives of everyone involved. Upon the publication of Madame Bovary in 1856 Gustave Flaubert was prosecuted for obscenity and offending public morals. In 1857 he was acquitted, and, aided by the publicity from the trial, Madame Bovary became a bestseller. It has been adapted for film, television, and theatre, including two adaptions in 2014—Madame Bovary starring Mia Wasikowska and Paul Giamatti, and Gemma Bovery starring Gemma Arterton.
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