Calling all Francophiles, lovers of literature, and savvy challenge seekers. Have you ever dreamt of joining a French book club? Well, now’s your chance… Welcome to the MyFrenchLife™ 12-month French Literature Challenge 2018!
Every month this year, we challenge you to sit back, relax, and delve into one of in our specially chosen French books! In March, we’re reading Gustave Flaubert.
Why take part in the MyFrenchLife™ book club?
Each month, we’ll be consulting our French literature experts to bring you a new and exciting French book review. We promise to dig deep and share our most intimate opinions, interpretations, and perceptions of France’s best literary offerings – and we’d love you to do the same!
Perhaps you can’t resist a challenge.
Maybe you’re still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution.
Whatever your reason, we challenge you to join us in our 2018 literary crusade – every opinion matters, especially yours.
This March, we’re continuing the challenge with one of our all-time favourite literary classics – Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’.
So, let’s all pick up our books and let the reading commence! Join our online book club, join the reading, join the fun – and have your voice heard.
Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’
Buy here: en français & English – dual language book
Buy here: en français
Gustave Flaubert: a literary masterpiece
Madame Bovary is Gustave Flaubert’s notorious novel based on the unfortunate life of Doctor Charles Bovary’s wife, poor Emma Bovary.
Flaubert’s power to project the feelings of a female heroine, in the oppressive setting of nineteenth-century French bourgeois society, allows his novel to be elevated to one of the most well-known classics in French literature.
The novel begins as an almost stereotypical romance story. Doctor Charles Bovary, married to a tyrannical, jealous woman, Heloise Dubuc, meets Emma and falls head over heels for her.
After the sudden death of his first wife, Charles is free to rescue Emma from the boredom of her father’s farm and marry her – Emma Bovary’s dream.
Yet, this is not happy-ever-after, this is Gustave Flaubert.
Love and expectations: a doomed heroine
Emma quickly realises that marriage is not what she expected.
Charles cannot compare to her many romantic novels, with their spectacular heroes and heroines. Instead, Emma sees him as emotionless, flat, and boring.
She resorts to trying to find her happiness elsewhere, through the means of luxury items – and even in other men. Two affairs with two different men, Léon and Rodolphe, allow Emma to finally feel what she sees as “true romance”.
Yet, these quickly become an enormous disillusion for the young woman.
Readers will quickly realise that Emma is never happy with what she has; nothing will ever match her large expectations of life.
Her fate, like all of Flaubert’s heroines, is doomed.
Gustave Flaubert: the blame game
Gustave Flaubert makes readers question who is to blame for this doomed fate of Emma Bovary.
- Is it the fault of the patriarchy she lives in, forcing her to marry, to stay at home, to live a non-adventurous life?
- Is it the fault of the men who ‘pretend’ to love her, to simply use her for their own personal gains?
- Or is it Emma’s own doing?
- Was it the need to live a fulfilling, bourgeoisie lifestyle?
Whatever our opinions may be of Emma’s fate, what is certain is Flaubert’s disdain towards society.
Throughout his novel, he nourishes a hatred for the stagnant society of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, which provides a backdrop for his characters.
Emma, of course, represents a comment on the married women of nineteenth-century France – a doomed heroine with only one means of escape…
Emma Bovary: modern-day life lessons
Although the novel was written in 1857, Emma appears as a modern-day (wo)man. Is she not the same as the many people today who endlessly browse social media, looking at the lives they want, but not appreciating what is in front of them?
Obsessed by the need to purchase everything she desires and achieve the perfect life, Emma could teach many of us readers life lessons.
I have read Madame Bovary (currently) five times, and each time I find something new and exciting.
The text itself is a piece of artwork; with Flaubert’s faultless style, his beautiful descriptions, the important use of object symbolism, flawless characterisation, and of course – his use of free indirect speech.
For me, Gustave Flaubert is THE French author to read when wanting to read in French. Not only will you be reading one of the most influential written styles, but you will discover the drama, characters and incredible plot of a true French classic.
Madame Bovary is, and always will be, the French classic of its time.
Now it’s your turn – get involved here.
Let the challenge begin!
Here you will find full details of our 2018 French literature challenge and READING LIST
In true book club fashion, we’re eager to get together – if only virtually – and compare literary notes. Leave your reviews in the comments box and complete the questions in the reading guidance form linked below.
Did you enjoy Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary? Who do you think is responsible for Emma’s doomed fate? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections in the comments box below – here’s where you GET INVOLVED.
1. © Jessica Rushton
2. Penguin Classics Madame Bovary, via Flickr
3. Gustave Flaubert, via Wikipedia
4. Madame Bovary, by Robert Burdock via Flickr