Who wrote this book and when?
It was published as a book in 1857 by Gustave Flaubert.

Has there been a film version?
Several, the most famous one being in 1949.

Who are the important characters?
Emma Bovary – the daughter of a farmer and wife of a doctor, she dreams of an exciting life
Dr. Charles Bovary – Emma’s husband, a staid doctor who wants to be cutting edge
Leon – a young man who loves Emma when they live in the same small town, he eventually moves to Paris
Rodolphe – a libertine who is interested in Emma as one of his mistresses
Lheureux – a merchant who knows how to cater to people’s tastes while enticing them into debt
Homais – an apothecary with a big ego

What’s it about?
This is a story of disillusionment and the search for fulfillment in life. Emma Bovary is a doctor’s wife but she longs for something that feels more real, more deep, more romantic; especially after a decadent ball attended by a dashing viscount. She searches for things to fill up the empty space in her life, whether it is material possessions, a child, love affairs, even religion.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It was one of the first novels to define real life in it’s ugliness – how many people truly were searching for a deeper feeling of reality and fulfillment. It resonated with them and set a standard for the rest of literature even to this day.

Do you recommend I read this book?
Not really; I, personally, think it’s boring.

How did this book make your list?
It’s considered a classic and was one of the banned books.

Has it won any awards?

Favorite quotes:
“It was the beginning of April, when the primroses are in bloom, and a warm wind blows over the flower-beds newly turned, and the gardens, like women, seem to be getting ready for the summer fetes. Through the bars of the arbour and away bwyond, the river seen in the fields, meandering through the grass in wandering curves. The evening vapours rose between the leafless poplars, touching their outlines with a violet tint, paler and more transparent than a subtle gauze caught athwart their branches.” – p 87

“Because lips libertine and venal had murmured such words to him, he believed but little in the candour of hers; exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.” – p 144

“No matter! She was not happy – she never had been. Whence came this insufficiency in life – this instantaneous turning to decay of everything on which she leant?” – p 209

Personal thoughts:
I was saving this book for a special occasion after hearing so many astoundingly wonderful things about it. Nearly everyone who has read it has recommended it – and frankly, I’m horribly disappointed. Which makes me wonder if something is wrong with me and my reading skills. The poetic prose in it, I admit, is gorgeous. Flaubert was an obsessive wordsmith and it shows in his writing. The language itself was great – just the story was lacking.

The longer this book went on, the more depressed I grew and the more I wanted to just read faster to finish it. Everything – from romances to death scenes was drawn out beyond my level of endurance. And I didn’t understand why the book began with Charles’ life and then suddenly switched to Emma’s after their marriage. I think as a modern reader, it’s a little hard for me to grasp the profundity of this work. I appreciate what it’s trying to get across…it’s just…I experience real life every day…why would I want to read a book about it that ends in a thoroughly depressing manner?