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Back to the Classics #4 – Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

A Classic in Translation

I’m not really sure how to talk about this book, because I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I don’t know if it was the translation I read, or if it was a deliberate choice of the author, but I felt like the prose in the book was just flat.  And I think I also felt, throughout the book, that I just didn’t “get” it.  I understood literally what was going on, but I’m just not sure what the author was getting at, or what the point of what was going on.

I’ve seen it suggested that Flaubert was not so keen on the people in the lower social strata trying to emulate their “betters” and I can certainly see that throughout the text.  Emma is partially punished because she aspires to belong to class to which she never can belong because she was not born rich.  She has no way of making money as she has married well enough that it would be below her station to work, but she will never inherit much money and is stuck.  However, if that was his intended theme, it is not brilliantly realised and often lapses into just punishing Emma for  being silly and vain and covetous and cruel.  All of which she is, but I guess I just don’t get it.  I don’t see the point.

Emma is just horrible.  I understand part of why she became like that – she was naive when she married and thought that she was getting something that she really wasn’t. It’s hard to condemn her for that.  Life for women in the 1800s was hard.  But after marriage she becomes simply horrible.  It’s extremely hard to have sympathy for her, and I think that’s the point, but, taking what I said about Flaubert above, it all seems like she is literally just supposed to be a A Cautionary Tale against Getting Above Your Station.  That’s all I could make of it.  If she was supposed to be a rebellious, trapped woman, he failed, because it’s impossible to sympathise with someone who is absolutely awful to a husband who is kind to her.  I feel sorry for Emma Bovary in that she is not a fully realised character and her actions are almost wholly dictated by the theme of the book.  There isn’t enough else in this novel to justify that (unlike the similar things I pointed out about East of Eden).

I just wasn’t crazy about it.  Technically, there wasn’t much wrong.  It was reasonably well written, and the plot did move along nicely – it was less than 300 pages long, so I never felt like I stalled while reading it.  But I wasn’t invested and I didn’t really care.  A couple of the side characters – Homais in particular – are reasonably entertaining, but it doesn’t save this from being simply okay. I give Madame Bovary five out of ten.

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Three last things before 2015!

So, that’s another year over. I’m having a “gathering” tonight and I still haven’t cleaned the flat (oops) so this will most likely be my last post of the year.  So it’s a round-up of three things that I wanted to post about before then.

The first is that I changed my theme.  I’m still using free themes and so on because I know less than nothing about how to customise this site.  I also definitely don’t have £70 or whatever to spare to go premium.  I’m aware I could purchase my own domain or something but… I don’t even know how that works.  With that in mind, let me know what you think!

Secondly, I’ll be taking part in the 12th Bout of Books next week! For those that don’t know about it:

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I’ve not made any specific goals yet – and I might not make any at all – but I’m looking forward to joining in for the first time!

And the third thing was that I wanted to wish you all a wonderful new year!  This has been a mixed year for me – but I suspect most of them are for most people – but I’m looking forward to all the highs and lows of the coming months.  Hopefully this blog will be one of the highs!

 

All the best!

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The First Mini-Challenge

There are currently 135 books on the list.  When I pick up my new books from my mum’s house, this will increase to 144 (I know, I know).  Obviously, that’s a lot to get through.  So I’m breaking it down into smaller chunks, and the first is to read 24 more books by the end of the year.  At the moment, I’ve read 92 books this year, and I’m on target to read 113.  So I figure I can manage 116 by the end of the year.  That would bring my TBR down to 120 (excluding Christmas presents/moments of weakness, and my Kindle TBR but it doesn’t take up physical space and as such is less of a problem).

So now I just need to decide what to read.  There are some books from my October TBR left that will be part of the 24.  Is there anything from the Master List that anyone would particularly like to see me read/review?