Mar 18, 2011

Madame Bovary, by Gustav Flaubert

What a wonderful book! True, the eponymous protagonist is a detestable woman, but what fantastic writing! I very much want to read the book in its original French, but I do feel that the version I read was an excellent translation. There are, of course, the expected dated colloquialisms, but I still feel that such writing easily holds its own among today's literature. Even more, I feel that its theme is relevant to today's issues of romance and expectations. Recently, there have been essays and the like that comment on how modern romantic films portray love, and the cult of "Prince Charming." This, it is argued, has lead a generation of women to develop unnaturally high expectations of love, and when they don't achieve them, to disillusionment.

As Madame Bovary proves, this is hardly a new phenomenon. Women and men alike have always engaged in romantic fantasies, and literature throughout the ages has both fed off of and promoted them. Can we really say that Tristan and Isolde, or Romeo and Juliet, have not presented idealized versions of romance and love to the masses? Of course they have. Madame Bovary is just one more casualty in a long history of the war against expectation.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and can't wait to try out the original French. I'd absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for classic literature but is afraid of the stuffy, verbose stereotype.

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