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A critical masterpiece, Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Bovary’s search for passion and the consequences that follow. While deeply loved by her husband Charles, Emma is unhappy with the banality of her provincial life, and seeks excitement in infidelity and living beyond her means. Left brokenhearted and penniless, the truth of Emma’s life ultimately destroys her and her family.
Reflecting on the bourgeoisie of France in the early nineteenth century, Madame Bovary is Flaubert’s commentary on the wealthy’s romantic delusions and the impact such delusions have on the lives of everyone involved. Upon the publication of Madame Bovary in 1856 Gustave Flaubert was prosecuted for obscenity and offending public morals. In 1857 he was acquitted, and, aided by the publicity from the trial, Madame Bovary became a bestseller. It has been adapted for film, television, and theatre, including two adaptions in 2014—Madame Bovary starring Mia Wasikowska and Paul Giamatti, and Gemma Bovery starring Gemma Arterton.
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Glenda Jackson hits the mark in this superb narration of Flaubert's classic novel. Her reading perfectly captures the restlessness of Emma Bovary, a character perpetually dissatisfied with her solid, steady husband and bourgeois life in provincial 19th-century France. Emma's unrealistic dreams (she yearns for a perfect, romantic love that will sweep her away into perpetual bliss) lead her into one affair after another, and then to financial ruin and suicide. Jackson is especially outstanding in the scene which takes place the night before Emma plans to run off with her lover, Rudolf. To Rudolf, Emma is just one in a long series of conquests, and he gets cold feet at the thought of being permanently responsible for her welfare and that of her child. In a swoony, sighing voice full of noble suffering, Jackson reads his flowery letter of tears and regret, saying he loves her too much to ruin her life and her reputation. Then, without missing a beat, she switches to smug, cynical satisfaction, as Rudolf admires the letter and congratulates himself on his close escape.