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Madame Bovary (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – June 2, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"Madame Bovary is available in a superb new translation, in a handsome hardback volume,and if you've never read it, or if you've only worked through it in first-year college French, you need to sit down with this book as soon as possible. This is one of the summits of prose art, and not to know such a masterpiece is to live a diminished life."--Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

About the Author

Margaret Mauldon has worked as a translator since 1987. She has translated Zola's L'Assommoir, Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma, Huysmans' Against Nature (winner of the Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation, 1999), Constant's Adolphe, and Maupassant's Bel-Ami, all for the Oxford World's Classics series. Malcolm Bowie, formerly Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford, is now Master of Christ's College, Cambridge. His publications include Proust Among the Stars, which won the prestigious Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 2001.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192840398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192840394
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,949,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), the younger son of a provincial doctor, briefly studied law before devoting himself to writing, with limited success during his lifetime. After the publication of Madame Bovary in 1857, he was prosecuted for offending public morals.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Asher Waxwing on May 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Flaubert claimed to absent himself from his work, to be "everywhere present and yet nowhere visible," and in some points in "Bovary" this technical detachment seems to effect a sense of icy-cold objectivity. And yet every time I read the novel it becomes clearer that it was written in a state of intense emotion, of excruciating moral striving and almost blood-thirsty savagery. With every choice of every "right word" is embedded Flaubert's love or Flaubert's hate, and sometimes both love and hate at once.

What does Flaubert hate? He certainly seems to hate cliche, and Emma's days are wasted in pursuit of one cliche after another. She does not love the three men in her life, or her daughter, or God, or anyone, but sees them as more or less suitable accessories to the cloying romance she would like to make of her life. To say that Flaubert hates the idea of the bourgeois is accurate but potentially misleading. For him, the bourgeois has almost nothing to do with social class and everything to do with a failure to look and think for oneself, everything to do with giving in to the temptation to accept easy generalities ("received ideas") and ignore the value in the minutia of everyday life. Emma does not notice, as careful readers will, the depravity of the aristocrats at the ball because she does not observe them; she is only interested in the *idea* of aristocrats and in how being among them reflects on her. This has nothing to do with being middle class or with being for or against the establishment. Emma adopts anti-establishment attitudes, and certainly transgresses against social custom, but this is Emma at her worst; her affectations are no more admirable than Leon's poeticized histrionics or the pose of Byronic nihilism with which Rodolphe lures Emma into bed.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sirin on December 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
I came to Madame Bovary through a perhaps fairly commonplace contemporary window - Julian Barnes's masterful 1984 novel 'Flaubert's Parrot'. Barnes, for those who are unfamiliar with him, is a Francophile English novelist who grabbed me when I was younger and I now read omnivorously. Flaubert's Parrot is a fascinating playful novel meditating on life, art, and especially Flaubert and his life and work, and especially Madame Bovary.

Of course, I was slightly wary of Madame Bovary's massive classic status. It easily holds its own in the pantheon of top five novels ever or something. But to read some of the reviews you might think Emma Bovary was a moderately attractive provincial slapper who got what she deserved.

People who think this clearly have no understanding human psychology. For on a first reading (most novels one reading suffices, but for Madame Bovary it was clear that it demands many subsequent re-readings) it was clear that Flaubert's succes du scandale is perhaps the greatest realist novel ever.

His style is supremely elegant, yet not dated in the way many of his 19th Century contemporaries have become. His subject is the world and its everymen - provincial people, limited in education, with vulgar and at hypocritical mores. His themes are timeless - the disjunction between people's idealised projection of themselves and the reality of their lives, the power dynamics of human relationships, the machinations of the heart, the difficulties of communication between people who live closely knit lives. His characters shine through not as mere holograms but as shining paragons of convincing personalities - the plodding mediocre husband, the frustrated wife, the feckless libertine and (my favourite) the tedious community worthy. These are not cliches but exemplars of so much human existence brought to life by the brilliance of Flaubert's style (he only wrote 25 words a day - slow progress, but well worth it).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Nicholson on March 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
A wonderful read (even with the translation)!

Flaubert has written an engaging tale (set in 19th century rural France) that is beautifully written (or a least translated). The quality of the prose of descriptions of persons, places and things is of the highest quality; however, some of the conversations between characters, may have lost a little something in the translation. Nonetheless, this book had no trouble keeping my interest and provided me with a dramatic tragedy that was, to say the least, memorable.

This book must have caused quite a stir in its day, due to what would have been considered a scandalous topic at the time of its original publication. (SPOILER) It is the story of a beautiful, but bored and unsatisfied housewife, paired with a naive, cuckold husband; both of whom unwittingly conspire (her actively, him passively) to lead their marriage on an ever downward spiraling path to ruin.

Simply a superbly told tale! 5 Stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Huggins on January 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with the editorial review above that says you could shake this book and nothing would fall out. I am amazed at how much emotion Flaubert can convey in the midst of apparently neutral descriptions of fact. The story is powerfully told, and nothing is wasted.

The book is rather like a longer alternate version of Hedda Gabler. The author's unblinking eye shows you the virtues and flaws of all characters, letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on January 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The startling impact of this novel published 150 years ago can only be imagined. It's doubtful that a female central character had ever exhibited such self-centeredness, held such disdain for her life and those in it, spent so much time romanticizing and fantasizing about future life with lovers, or sunk to such depths of despair when realities hit home. The themes of the book are hardly irrelevant today: the quick onset of marital unhappiness, the excitement, yet limitations, of infidelity, and the financial consequences of extravagance.

Despite the relevance of those issues, the characterizations are not particularly realistic by modern standards: the characters are overdrawn - excessive. Emma is almost childlike in her profound unhappiness and obsessiveness; her husband Charles is beyond oblivious in failing to perceive Emma's thinking and behavior; and the comical arrogance of various professionals, such as the doctors and the pharmacist, is only exceeded by their ignorance and incompetence.

The book is set in small towns in the French countryside. It's difficult for the modern reader to fully grasp that environment, though the author offers fairly detailed and sophisticated descriptions. In fact, one might want to keep a dictionary handy.

The subject matter of the book is commonplace in the modern novel. But the book is interesting just from the standpoint that a nineteenth century author could produce a book that is so psychologically perceptive concerning marital life. It is considered to be a classic for a reason; it remains worth reading.
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