150 year old modern masterpiece

Posted by Bel. The time is 10:30am here in Wellington, NZ.

There were so many things I liked about this book. I will not be at all surprised when a new film version of it comes out sometime soon, and they play up the 'Real Wives of Ye Olde France' side of it.

Despite the fact that "Madame Bovary" was first published in the 1850s, Flaubert has created a character that still resonates today - she is the prototype for Carmela Soprano, for the modern day woman shopping her way out of unhappiness, for suburbanites quietly suffocating under the routine of small-town existence.

This book reminded me a lot of "The House of Mirth", as they both have the same tragic arc and a compelling female lead who makes the wrong choices and essentially digs her own grave. Both storylines make apparent the patriachal framework of their lives and how their destinies are without escape, due to a complete lack of autonomy.

It felt like a great translation to read, with all the nuances and humour intact - unlike the clunky idiomatic writing in the version of Colette's "Earthly Paradise" I read recently. That had multiple translators, due to the piecemeal nature of the collection, and there were times when I thought 'Really? That's how she phrased that??'.

I shall give "Madame Bovary" very nearly 4 stars. Let's say 3 and 3/4. It's just that I heard that it had been banned when it came out and so I was expecting it to be a bit more raunchy than it was - however, of course, it is all discreet 'off screen' action [tragic that I use a filmic term to describe that]. What Emma gets up to is still scandalous behaviour, but I always find it very weird when you read these old-fashioned books and you finish a paragraph and then go, 'Huh. Oh! They did it... Did they? (scan back a bit) Yes... yes I think they did! Scandalous!!'