Book Read-Along: Madame Bovary - Part 1

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During the month of April, I am participating in a read-along of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. If you have been meaning to read this classic book, it is not too late to join in. More information can be found on my Madame Bovary Read-Along Introduction page. This group of readers is quite friendly and some interesting insights have been shared, so don't be shy if you want to join.

Throughout the month, the group stops to discuss the book. Madame Bovary happens to be divided into three parts, which makes the read-along breaks quite easy. Today (April 10, 2014) is the day for discussing Part One. These discussions will then be followed by postings for Part 2 (April 20, 2014) and Part 3 (April 30, 2014). 

The main landing page for the Part One discussion is at Cedar Station. You will find links and discussion questions, in addition to a lively conversation in the comments section.

Now on to a few of the discussion questions:
*For those of you who are re-reading Madame Bovary, how does your experience reading the book this time compare with your first reading? Is everything as you remembered it?
This is definitely a discussion question for me! I have written about how I read Madame Bovary in college many years ago. The book represented a literary rebellion for me, I suppose. I knew it was scandalous, for its time. I went through a phase when I read all of those "banned books," so to speak. Sadly, I didn't remember much about the actual book, though.

So now I return to Madame Bovary many years later. Now I'm a married woman with teenage kids. This is a VERY different book to me now! The wisdom of age has provided me with many insights into the various characters in Madame Bovary. I know moms who are like Madame Bovary, the mother. I've seen husbands like Charles who love the idea of their wife, but not really the actual soul of their spouse. And I've definitely known women like Emma Bovary who live a fantasy of their own imagination, with romantic notions and longings that seem to doom their existence.

I am honestly loving this book right now. Sometimes I do find the incessant descriptions to be tedious. For example, the LONG passage that described the wedding feast nearly put me to sleep. Later, however, I realized an interesting contrast in the book. When planning the wedding, Emma stated that she would have "preferred to have a midnight wedding with torches." (Doesn't that sound cool?!) Instead she and Charles had a very long country-bumpkin affair with way too many people and far too much attention on inane details. What fascinating insight into Emma's mindset and, perhaps, foreshadowing of the woman she will become later in the book.

* At the start of the novel, it sounds as if one of Charles Bovary’s classmates is acting as narrator, but his voice gradually seems to disappear. Who do you think is telling the story of Charles and Emma Bovary? Why do you think Flaubert chose to write the narration in this way?
I've actually been fascinated with how the entire novel seems to shift from a specific narrator to an omniscient narrator and then back again. At one point in the book, I truly had the thought that no modern day editor would allow a book to be published like this today because of the inconsistencies in the point of view. The shifting viewpoints in Madame Bovary give the book an unsettling feeling, with startling glimpses into a characters' motivation or history. One particularly good example of this was when Emma's father says goodbye to the married couple, then he turns and remembers a son that passed away who would have been 30 years old. WHAT? No indication of where that came from, no more mention of it and yet it is key to exposing why Emma's father treats her like he does.

My favorite Part One quote:
"Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books."

It really is not too late to join this read-along! 
I'm reading a free copy of Madame Bovary which is available on Amazon Kindle.

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4 comments: said...

I know people too who fit the characters of this book. And if you look at the romantic notions that Emma has about what a "perfect husband" should be, then you can find something very similar in most romance novels today---at least if you go by the book blurbs :). In a way, this is a very timeless book. I enjoy reading it.

ebookclassics said...

We are reading the same ebook! Reading the book also as a married woman with kids, I think I have a better appreciation for the themes in the story than I would have had reading Madame Bovary in my younger years.

LavishBookshelf said...

What a great point to compare Emma's longings to the romance novels of today. LOL! So true! I guess some things never change. Thanks so much for stopping by.

LavishBookshelf said...

A free kindle book is a good price! :-) Amazing how the perspective of life experiences change the way you perceive a book. I guess that is what makes this book a classic!

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