For daring to peer into the heart of an adulteress and enumerate its contents with profound dispassion, the author of Madame Bovary was tried for "offenses against morality and religion." What shocks us today about Flaubert's devastatingly realized tale of a young woman destroyed by the reckless pursuit of her romantic dreams is its pure artistry: the poise of its narrative structure, the opulence of its prose (marvelously captured in the English translation of Francis Steegmuller), and its creation of a world whose minor figures are as vital as its doomed heroine. In reading Madame Bovary, one experiences a work that remains genuinely revolutionary almost a century and a half after its creation.
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.
Ok but tough reading
I like the beginning but I started to lose interest about after 1/4 of the way through.
A fine translation
Madame Bovary has a number of good translation, as well as a few that are less than special. With this book, it really does come down to the translation. Gustave Flaubert was such a perfectionist that he wrote only 25 words a day,
The present translation is precise, but absorbing. I doubt you'll find a better translation out there.