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VINE VOICEon August 17, 2000
Making a statement like Madame Bovary is the "greatest" novel ever written would be superfluous. It could be argued that it is the most perfectly written novel in the history of letters and that in creating it, Flaubert mastered the genre. What can't be argued is that it is one of the most influential novels ever written. It changed the face of literature as no other novel has, and has been appreciated and acknowledged by virtually every important novelist who was either Flaubert's contemporary or who came after him.
It's interesting to see the range in opinion that still surrounds this novel. Some of the Readers here at Amazon are morally affronted by the novel's central character, viewing her as something sinister and "unlikeable," and panning the novel for this reason. Such a reaction recalls the negative reviews Bovary engendered soon after its initial publication. It was attacked by many of the authorities of French literature at the time for being ugly and perverse, and for the impression that the novel presented no properly moral frame. These readers didn't "like" Emma much either, and they took their dislike out on her creator.
But this is one of the factors making Madame Bovary "modern". One of the hallmarks of modern novels is that they often portray unsympathetic characters, and Emma certainly falls into this category. How can we as readers "like" a woman who elbows her toddler daughter away from her so forcefully that the child "fell against the chest of drawers, and cut her cheek on the brass curtain-holder." After this pernicious behavior, Emma has a few brief moments of self-castigation and maybe even remorse, but very soon is struck by "what an ugly child" Berthe is. Emma's self-centeredness borders on solipsism. For readers looking for maternal instincts in their female characters or for a depiction of a devoted wife, they had better turn to Pearl S. Buck and The Good Earth, perhaps, rather than to Flaubert.
Much has been made of Flaubert's attempts to remove himself from the narrative, that he was searching for some sort of ultimate objectivity. His narrative technique is much more complex than that, however. It is his employment of a shifting narrative, sometimes objective, sometimes subjective, that again is an indicator of the novel's modernity. At times the narrator is merely reporting events or is involved in providing descriptive details. Yet often the authorial voice makes rather plain how the reader is to look at Emma and her plebeian persona. When she finally succumbs to Rodolphe and thinks she is truly in love, Flaubert becomes downright cynical: " `I've a lover, a lover,' she said to herself again and again, revelling in the thought as if she had attained a second puberty. At last she would know the delights of love, the feverish joys of which she had despaired. She was entering a marvelous world where all was passion, ecstasy, delirium."
Emma is a neurasthenic, in the modern sense, but in the 19th century she would have been said to suffer from hysteria, a mental condition diagnosed primarily in women. When her lovers leave her, she has what amounts to nervous breakdowns. After Rodolphe leaves her she makes herself so sick that she comes near death. Her imagination is much too powerful and too impressionable for her own good. This is part of the reason for Flaubert's oft-repeated quote, "Bovary, c'est moi." Flaubert was a neurasthenic as well and could easily work himself into a swoon as a result of his imaginative flights. There is even conjecture that he may have been, like Dostoevsky, an epileptic, and it is further intimated that this disorder was brought on by nerves, though this may be dubious, medically speaking.
Madame Bovary is not flawless, but it comes awfully close. It is one of the great controlled experiments in the fiction of any era. It even anticipates cinematic technique in many instances, but particularly in the scene at the Agricultural Fair. Note how Flaubert juxtaposes the utterly mundane activities and speeches occurring in the town square with Rodolphe's equally inane seduction of Emma in the empty Council Chamber above the square:
"He took her hand and she did not withdraw it."
"`General Prize!' cried the Chairman.'"
"`Just now, for instance, when I came to call on you...'"
"Monsieur Bizet of Quincampoix."
"`...how could I know that I should escort you here?'"
"Seventy francs!"
"`And I've stayed with you, because I couldn't tear myself away, though I've tried a hundred times.'"
"Manure!"
This is representative Flaubert. With a few deft strokes, he lays the whole absurdity of both the seduction and the provincial's activities bare.
If you have read this book previously and have come away feeling demoralized and even angered, please try reading it again, this time concentrating on the richness of its metaphors, Flaubert's mastery of foreshadowing, symbolism and description. Maybe you will come away with your viewpoint changed. For those who have not yet read this classic of classics, I know that if your mind remains open, you will come away with an appreciation for this master-novelist and for this monumental work.
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on December 19, 2010
Skip this. Footnotes in the middle of pages with no source reference in the page. Use of obscure terms (form for bench), choppy uneven language. I compared this to another paper edition I own. The translation is poor at best. Sometimes you do get exactly what you pay for.
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on May 21, 2011
Having originally read MADAME BOVARY in French, I am bound to find English versions disappointing, though, over the years, I have twice read acceptable translations. From Amazon, I bought the General Books paperback, and I cannot comprehend how Marx Aveling could allow it to appear for sale, especially after her adoring Flaubert prologue. The publisher scanned her copy without proofing it, and there are so many typos it's virtually unreadable.
The language is as forced and artificial as Flaubert's is natural and true. He created such marvelous characters that they manage to struggle through this mess and touch the reader. But I implore people not to read this genius author in this disgrace of a book. - Ann Seymour
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on March 22, 2011
Madame Bovary is perhaps the finest French novel of the 19th century, and that is really saying something; consider that this was the century that produced Balzac, Zola, Maupassant, Hugo, Dumas, and Stendhal. Madame Bovary is one of the greatest anti-heroes in all of Western literature, as she leads the reader through a tragedy that explores the extremes of ambivalence. Masterful and compelling. An absolute must-read.

HOWEVER, this particular edition (published by General Books LLC) is absolutely atrocious. I have never seen a book so rife with typographical errors -- it's like reading a Kindle transcription gone horribly wrong. Several times, Charles is referred to as "Charlea", and many of the chapters are divided improperly and begin nonsensically. Spend a little more $$$ and get the Penguin edition, or one that is translated by Lydia Davis.
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VINE VOICEon March 30, 2012
As a college English major I often had to read several books at a time with very little time to truly enjoy any of them. I promised myself that some day I would go back and re-read them just for fun.

For that reason I am really enjoying my Kindle and free Kindle editions of classic books. I love reading these classics on the Kindle because it allows me to quickly look up archaic words.

And re-reading these great works makes it clear why they are classics and why people are still reading them.

Emma Bovary is STILL a relevant character. Change the horses and carriages to cars and the unscrupulous milliner to a credit card company and this book might have been written about a 21st Century woman. She craves love and longs for passion in her life while completely overlooking the husband who adores her and loves her with almost frightening intensity.

Ignore the original publication date. It's still fresh and still great literature.
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on February 22, 2011
The aforementioned footnotes didn't bother me too much, but there are quite a few odd word choices and blatant transpositions in the text. Not enough to ruin the reading experience, but enough to make you go "huh?" at least once a chapter (i.e. a pony "gambling" in the pasture instead of "gamboling") especially if you are unused to older translations with archaic usages.

That being said, this was my first experience with the book and I felt like I got all of the author's intention from it - the word choices aren't lazy, just old-fashioned. And when all's said and done, isn't that the important thing?
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on September 28, 2010
The kindle edition of L'Education Sentimentale (in french) by Flaubert is just awful. No dots, no commas, lack of paragraphs and part of sentences that make the reading nearly impossible. I'm not complaining about Flaubert's writing, but about the kindle edition I've got.

L'edition Kindle de L'Education Sentimentale de Flaubert en Français est affreuse. Il y a de graves problemes de ponctuation et d'edition. Cela rend la lecture practiquement impossible.
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on August 4, 2011
A previous reviewer noted that this edition was full of problems. But the new version (March 2011) seems to have fixed most of these. I have not spotted any missing text or punctuation marks, the interactive table of contents works properly, and the formatting is fine. The only problem is that for some reason semi-colons, colons and sometimes full stops are separated with a space from the previous word, which can look a bit odd. (You can see what I mean by using the "look inside" facility on Amazon's site). But this is only a minor niggle - this is basically now a good edition.
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on August 8, 2010
The entire story is colorful an keeps the reader interested until the end. Vivid and an enchanting journey into the mind of a women stranded into a world buried in average housewife chores, and married to a man who she maybe does not truly love. The ending leaves the reader to think long after the author's words stopped.
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on November 13, 2011
Throughout the entire book I kept thinking I didn't like it, but looking back on it I liked it. It is a slow read. I would recommend this to people who like Classic Literature.

Basically this book follows the gradual decline of a woman, dragging down everyone else with her.
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