Madame Bovary (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Gustave Flaubert, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

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by Gustave Flaubert
     
 

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Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is one of the most influential - and scandalous - novels of the nineteenth century. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction by Geoffrey Wall, with a preface by Michele Roberts. Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An

Overview

Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is one of the most influential - and scandalous - novels of the nineteenth century. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction by Geoffrey Wall, with a preface by Michele Roberts. Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment and the consequences are devastating. Flaubert's erotically charged and psychologically acute portrayal of Emma Bovary caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857. It was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for his heroine; but Flaubert insisted: 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi.' Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was born in Rouen. After illness interrupted a career in law, he retired to live with his widowed mother and devote himself to writing. Madame Bovary won instant acclaim upon book publication in 1857, but Flaubert's frank display of adultery in bourgeois France saw him go on trial for immorality, only narrowly escaping conviction. Both Salammbo (1862) and The Sentimental Education (1869) were poorly received, and Flaubert achieved limited success in his own lifetime - but his fame and reputation grew steadily after his death. If you enjoyed Madame Bovary you might also like Stendhal's The Red and the Black, also available in Penguin Classics. 'Its beauty is enchanting and terrible' A.S. Byatt, author of Possession 'An extraordinarily innovative work: its style was at once ironic and lyrical, detached and passionate, ambiguous and precise' Kate Summerscale

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Madame Bovary is like the railroad stations erected in its epoch: graceful, even floral, but cast of iron." -- John Updike
Library Journal
Kate Reading narrates Davis's tightly woven and highly accessible new translation of Flaubert's 1857 literary classic, in which the title character, a middle-class, bored, self-centered woman who is desperately seeking a purpose in life, instead finds herself in a destructive arc. Both translator and reader have won numerous awards for their respective previous works, and this collaboration results in an audio performance that is both polished and engaging. Warmly recommended for any non-French speaker interested in literary classics. [Alternate recordings of previous translations are available from Blackstone Audio, as read by Simon Vance, and from Tantor Audio, as read by Donada Peters.—Ed.]—I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140449129
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/17/2002
Series:
Penguin Classics Series
Edition description:
Revised
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,098,032
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 7.80(h) x 2.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The uncouth schoolboy; The Bovary household; A mother's ambitions; Studies with the cure; Training for medicine; Student life in Rouen; Failure and success; A practice in Normandy; The bailiff's widow; The first Madame Bovary.

We were in the prep-room when the Head came in, followed by a new boy in mufti and a beadle carrying a big desk. The sleepers aroused themselves, and we all stood up, putting on a startled look, as if we had been buried in our work.

The Head motioned to us to sit down.

'Monsieur Roger,' said he in a quiet tone to the prep master, I've brought you a new boy. He's going into the second. If his conduct and progress are satisfactory, he will be put up with the boys of his own age. '

The new boy had kept in the background, in the corner behind the door, almost out of sight. He was a country lad of about fifteen, and taller than any of us. His hair was clipped straight across the forehead, like a village choirboy's. He seemed a decent enough fellow, but horribly nervous. Although he was not broad across the shoulders, his green cloth jacket, with its black buttons, looked as if it pinched him under the arms and revealed, protruding well beyond the cuffs, a pair of raw, bony wrists, obviously not unaccustomed to exposure. His legs, encased in blue stockings, issued from a pair of drab-coloured breeches, very tightly braced. He had on a pair of thick, clumsy shoes, not particularly well cleaned and plentifully fortified with nails.

The master began to hear the boys at their work. The newcomer listened with all his ears, drinking it in as attentively as if he had been in church, not daring to cross his legs or to lean his elbows on the desk, and when two o'clock came and the bell rang for dismissal, the master had to call him back to earth and tell him to line up with the rest of us.

It was our custom, when we came in to class, to throw our caps on the floor, in order to have our hands free. As soon as ever we got inside the door, we 'buzzed' them under the form, against the wall, so as to kick up plenty of dust. That was supposed to be 'the thing.' Whether he failed to notice this manoeuvre or whether he was too shy to join in it, it is impossible to say, but when prayers were over he was still nursing his cap. That cap belonged to the composite order of headgear, and in it the heterogeneous characteristics of the busby, the Polish shapska, the bowler, the otterskin toque and the cotton nightcap were simultaneously represented. It was, in short, one of those pathetic objects whose mute unloveliness conveys the infinitely wistful expression we may sometimes note on the face of an idiot. Ovoid in form and stiffened with whalebone, it began with a sort of triple line of sausage-shaped rolls running all round its circumference; next, separated by a red band, came alternate patches of velvet and rabbit-skin; then a kind of bag or sack which culminated in a stiffened polygon elaborately embroidered, whence, at the end of a long, thin cord, hung a ball made out of gold wire, by way of a tassel. The cap was brand-new, and the peak of it all shiny.

'Stand up,' said the master.

He stood up, and down went his cap. The whole class began to laugh.

He bent down to recover it. One of the boys next to him jogged him with his elbow and knocked it down again. Again he stooped to pick it up.

'You may discard your helmet,' said the master, who had a pretty wit.

A shout of laughter from the rest of the class quite put the poor fellow out of countenance, and so flustered was he that he didn't know whether to keep it in his hand, put it on the floor or stick it on his head. He sat down and deposited it on his knees.

'Stand up,' said the master again, 'and tell me your name.'

In mumbling tones the new boy stammered out something quite unintelligible.

'Again!'

Again came the inarticulate mumble, drowned by the shouts of the class.

'Louder!' rapped out the master sharply. 'Speak up!'

Whereupon the boy, in desperation, opened his jaws as wide as they would go and, with the full force of his lungs, as though he were hailing somebody at a distance, fired off the word 'Charbovari.'

In an instant the class was in an uproar. The din grew louder and louder, a ceaseless crescendo crested with piercing yells--they shrieked, they howled, they stamped their feet, bellowing at the top of their voices: 'Charbovari! Charbovari!' Then, after a while, the storm began to subside. There would be sporadic outbreaks from time to time, smothered by a terrific effort, or perhaps a titter would fizz along a whole row, or a stifled explosion sputter out here and there, like a half-extinguished fuse.

However, beneath a hail of 'impositions,' order was gradually restored. The master--who had had it dictated, spelled out and read over to him--had at length succeeded in getting hold of the name of Charles Bovary, and forthwith he ordered the hapless wretch to go and sit on the dunce's stool, immediately below the seat of authority. He started to obey, stopped short and stood hesitating.

'What are you looking for?' said the master.

'My ca--' began the new boy timidly, casting an anxious glance around him.

An angry shout of 'Five hundred lines for the whole class' checked, like the Quos ego, a fresh outburst. 'Stop your noise, then, will you?' continued the master indignantly, mopping his brow with a handkerchief which he had produced from the interior of his cap.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Madame Bovary is like the railroad stations erected in its epoch: graceful, even floral, but cast of iron." — John Updike

Meet the Author

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.

Geoffrey Wall is author of the critically acclaimed Flaubert: A Life and translated Madame Bovary for Penguin Classics.

Michèle Roberts is the author of ten highly praised novels.

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Madame Bovary 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 205 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Charles, Madame Bovary's husband, is not the brightest of creatures, but he dearly loves his wife, puts her on a pedastal, and indulges her by giving her whatever she wants. Although she repays his loyalty and quiet devotion with emotional, financial and physical ruin, his love is steadfast, pure and true. The title is 'Madame Bovary' but the real hero is her sweet kind husband Charles and, to a lesser extent her child, Berthe, who loves her mother unconditionally despite the fact that her mother hardly seems to truly care about anyone but herself. I have heard that one mark of great literature is that its value changes with a reader in direct relationship to the reader's life circumstances and experience. To a very young reader growing up in a time when cell phones, the Internet, and Nintendo are all old school inventions, this book may seem irrelevant. It makes sense that the very young may have extreme difficulty relating. However, given the maturity, serious study and reflection on human interactions, emotions, and the ability to foresee consequences, a more experienced reader and lifelong student will find themes that transcend the test of time. (Such as self-control, generosity of heart, the consequences of infidelity and other forms of impulsivity, loneliness, boredom, what makes a person ordinary vs. extraordinary, etc.) Which brings me to another point I understand about great literature: it stands the test of time. Written in 1857, then banned in France for 'offenses against public morals and religion' then later considered brilliant by his peers and great writers that followed, this book very easily fits into the category of 'great literature.' Like others have said, if one will only SLOW DOWN and deeply consider each event and how it relates to other events both in the book and in present-day reality, one can find great lessons on morality and the human condition that transcend time. (These same things may be said about many other great works, such as any number of those by Shakespeare.) Yes, one can learn a great deal about humanity in this book, if it is given the fair chance it deserves. And hey, if you get little from it now, don't write it off forever--revisit it in 5 or 10 years and see if this book says something different to you then. A marvelous classic!!! Flaubert was a genius!
fudgemuffin More than 1 year ago
I agree with the second review, very fine novel. Flaubert's talent for description is something few (or none) are able to do today. Some may have a problem with the great detail, however if there are any interested in the nineteenth century and how people lived and breathed, this novel should certainly help. (Other than Flaubert, I might also recommend Balzac for having much of the same gift for realism.) Brilliant book, full of sensuality, but not without its darkness. Easily one of the best I have ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have read in a while. The French tend to write in a flowery and beautiful style that can entertain the toughest of critics. It is delicately permiscuous and extremely interesting. Bravo, Flaubert!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reviewers of the day were right to say that the Seine, which flowed below Flaubert's window, influenced the work. I believe it. The slow and easy rhythm of the novel carries you on and on, like the current of a large stream. The prose is ever-flowing, seemingly devolving without seeking an end, its goal so far removed from any indivudual part of the novel, it is impossible to see it until you near the estuary of the literary stream, the end, and then you think, 'Of course. Her death was inevitable, as inevitable as water flowing down to the sea. The world is the world. It has rules, unwritten, which are unbendable.' Although the novel is tedious in the accuracy of its scene descriptions, the malaise is soon forgotten when one remembers that Flaubert wrote in the days before television, for a public thirsting for visual descriptions, a public wanting to see inside Emma's house, inside the Marquis' castle, inside the bedrooms where she cheats. But even in these lengthy paragraphs, the rhythm never relents, each item chosen carefully, each phrase crafted skilfully to show the folly of society in letting the media of the day manipulate men, women, and children into wanting the impossible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At times reading this book felt a bit like a chore that I had brought upon myself, but I couldn't put it down once I got halfway through. A book that makes the reader really ponder the character's motives and traits can only be a good one. And that important questioning of human morality and rationality is precisely what 'Madame Bovary' does.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not quite know what to expect, not having read any Flaubert before. I could feel the seething hatred for the societal values that prevailed at the time. All the characters are caricatures drawn from real people that Flaubert knew, yet he impressed his agenda on the plot. I enjoyed myself, and I see why this was a classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emma Bovary believes love and marriage are supposed to be like a flowery romance novel, and is she in for disappointment! She expects marriage to a doctor to provide her with all the adoration and frivolities she desires, but finds that real life can never live up to her fantasies. She involves herself in affairs to fill the emptiness at the expense of a man who truly adores her. She is an actress, the stage is her actual life, and her end is like a tragic heroine...just like she wanted! Amazing cautionary tale, even in the 21st century!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't read Madame Bovary for the plot. In this day and age, extra-marital affairs aren't as scandalous as they once were, and in the pastoral setting not all that much happens. But the true beauty of the book lies in Flaubert's characters, especially Emma, a woman who seems to methodically destroy herself and everyone around her. This process is disturbing, but at the same fascinating, because all though her behavior is extreme, the desire to leave everything behind in pursuit of (often hopeless) dreams is not so uncommon.
snowbird922 More than 1 year ago
Emma Bovary was completely self absorbed in what the fantasy of love should be while letting her family life deteriorate slowly for her own pleasures. Charles was a very weak man he let everyone control him especially his wife. What I didn't like is the writer spent lots of time on the characters and places which is all well but I think a little more description of the relationship between Emma and Charles would have been much better. By the end of the book I was tired of hearing any thing that character Homais had to say he was a pompous and arrogant know it all. I have heard a lot about the translation making this a hard read that wasn't the case for me it was the lengthy moments he spent on situations that did not have any impact on the main characters Emma & Charles. The book ended disastrously for the daughter which made me feel even more contempt for Emma's character as well as Charles at least he could have tried to live for his daughter she was the real victim in this story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was eager to read Madame Bovary after finishing Little Children, Tom Perotta. Parts of the novel were so borning, but I pushed through. I did read somewhere that Flaubert was trying to convey in those parts how boring Emma felt in her own life. You did get caught up in the action of the novel through the writing style. I would venture to say that Emma had some type of manic/anxiety disorder mixed with her own selfish desires and a lack of conscience that drove her to the ends of her wits. I still don't know how I feel about Emma as a character. You could literally feel her discontent and meloncholy. I guess that's the mark of a good novel-one that leaves you unsure and disturbed by aspects of humanity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Falubert is a master of clearly depicting physical, emotional and visual details. It's a painful predicament we find Emma Bovary in, but she is of free will makes her own choices. Don't let the subject of this book dissuade you. If you like great reading, Madame Bovary is a must.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emma character is not wonderful at all but you can't stop yourself for being sorry for her. She is trapped in a time where women didn't have right to escape their lot in life. This book open a new door for appreciating womans suffrage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Madame Bovary is an extraordinary book both for the nineteenth century and the present times. Interesting story line and characters make this classic easy to read. The irony of the entire plot made this a book which I could not put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a classic, and yet I am the first to write a review. What a shame. Mark Twain once said a classic is what everyone esteems, but no one reads. Too bad that this has to be grouped into that category. When I read this book, last Christmas, I anticipated an orgy...a book that had not much merit, but was widely read because of it's shocking subject. I was wrong. Classics are classics for a reason. It's not just about plot. It's not just about character...Flaubert wrote with flinching honesty, and how he understood the psyche of young, frustrated wives is beyond me. The urgency, the feeling that time is just running away with any chance of happiness...the longing to be known, to sadness at realizing greatness has slipped from grasp. We start off wanting feeling...and we end like blind men...searching for anything that slightly resembles it and gain only the opposite. Another question the book forces the reader to ask herself/ himself is whether emotion can really be trusted, or whether it is merely manifestation of what the mind knows and THINKS it wants. Just an overall tremendous read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book about a week ago and have been mystified and entranced by its beauty and captivating voluptuousness.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Ithwp o
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
This classic novel is about a sensual woman in search of herself. Parts of it are beautiful, and still hold up over time.  Others, not so much. I got glimpses inside Madame Bovary's head, I got the idea that the author was trying to understand women, or at least, one woman (notes suggest similarities to a relationship between Flaubert and his mistress). Sometimes she is sympathetic, sometimes she is despicable, sometimes she is simply a cipher. The tragic ending is inevitable, as Emma Bovary never knows what, exactly, she is seeking. Not sure if there isn't some slightly revengeful satisfaction by the author in the many pages of the character's long, agonizing death throes, but... *shrugging* I am not sure what the takeaway message is, what I am supposed to have learned about life, but as a classic, it is worth reading at least once, and I am sure parts of it will continue to haunt me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
So this is the classics version of Revolutionary Road. Emma Bovary is the depressed, bored housewife of a country doctor. She longs for more out of life and is deeply disappointed with the direction of her life. She wants to dance, wear the latest fashions, and mingle amongst the best of society. At first, she resigns herself to her sacrifice, thinking it will buy her a place in heaven. Her husband, the kindly, portly Doctor Charles Bovary is blind to all that is happening. He believes Emma to be happy and contented. This, of course, serves only to alienate Emma all the more. Emma quickly learns that martyrdom does not come naturally for her and chooses instead to indulge herself. She meets Rudolph and engages in a four year affair with him. She becomes clingy and desperate. She wants to leave to Paris with Rudolph and aggressively pursues that end. Rudolph leads her along but Emma was never nothing more than a passing diversion for him and he leaves her high and dry. Emma throws herself into her depression with the same passion she approaches everything and fall into ill health. Along comes Leon, a man she was attracted to back in her martyrdom days. This time around, she chooses to engage and in doing so, denies herself nothing. She makes extravagant purchases and even becomes so bold as to not come home on certain nights. She lives so lavishly and recklessly her creditors come knocking. Poor Charles has to come to terms with his wife's indiscretions.  On the one hand, this novel was frustrating because Emma is such an unlikeable character. She is weak of character and selfish. She cares nothing of her husband and child and cares only of her pleasures. On the other hand, the novel is so beautifully written and entertaining. Every sentence is like poetry. Flaubert's book is a classic for a reason. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very interesting.  I enjoyed reading it because it had such an amazing take on the characters point of view.  I believe that the author was very successful in the sense that he was able to depict a character who truly wants to be happy and truly wants to live in her dreams but is unable to.  Charles Bovary isn’t the smartest but he is able to try to be the best that he cans.  He falls deeply for emma and loves her dearly and at first emma thinks her love for him could be a possibility but while Charles embraces her and all that she is, Emma continues to try and push him further away.  Thinking to herself why can’t he be this or that.  Why must he be who he is.  Why can’t he be better educated.  However her husband continues his love for her and continues to put up with her even when she does nothing but wrong to him.  The author truly has a way with words in this novel from his characterization to the the different themes and meanings.  I believe that in order to gain a better understanding of this book it is also necessary to read with an open mind.  This is because all of the characters run their lives by what they feel they deserve. I rated this book as a 3 out of 5 because even though this book was of the greater quality it wasn’t something that was able to capture my eye as much as i hoped that it would.  I enjoyed reading it.   I enjoyed the characters. {or at least most of the characters}.  But there was something about the book that made me think this is not as good as i thought it was going to be.  While Flaubert’s writing is of the most exquisiteness I feel as if there was more base in the story and just a little more it would’ve added to the spots where I was just unintrigued. Likewise the characters really grow on you.  You fall in love with half the characters and then the other half you just wish they weren’t there anymore because they start to get on your nerves.
Cdarr More than 1 year ago
Madam Bovary, herself, was a spoil ed woman in love with love. It's a shame that she never wanted it from a husband who adored her.
marmendy35 More than 1 year ago
I did like this book, but like many classics, it is hard to deal with the detailed descriptions and scenes that sometimes drag (I suspect that comes from being a modern, movie-media reader). Given that, I persevered and got quite a lot from this book. In terms of the social structure of the time, this is a great history book as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago