From my bookshelf

I am now searching for an antique copy of Madame Bovary to add to my antique collection.

Those who know me know that there are three things which I can talk about incessantly: photography, travel and books. And since I believe books are magical, holy objects they deserve a regular spot on this blog. Those of you who read a lot will know that the name of this blog is derived from my best book of all time – The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. However since the concept of ‘lightness of being’ is very different in the book to what I would like to achieve in this little corner of cyberspace I will not dwell on it much…only urge you to read it.

 
So the first book to be featured is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. For the past two years I have been trying to read as many classics as possible although they are not always easy. But after watching Little Children with Kate Winslet, in which the book is discussed, I was really intrigued and read it a few months ago. I was floored. It is beautifully written and I could not put it down even though I had been expecting to struggle through it. I will very shamefully admit that sometimes I find the classics a little, well, um boring. A little tedious. Especially when they describe some scandalous act in such a way that your 21st century mind sometimes struggles to work out what on earth they are talking about; needless to say the description of love affairs and all things bedroom related  in 18th and 19th century literature leaves, well, everything up to the imagination.
 
Emma Bovary is quite possibly one of my favourite literary characters even though she is vain, sees herself as superior to others, and loves material things. Towards the end of the book it becomes harder and harder to sympathise with her as she throws herself and her family deeper into trouble. But the entire time I read the book I could not help thinking how I would have fared in similar circumstances. It is easy to criticize Emma for the mistakes she makes when you are a woman living in today’s modern world, with all the freedom that the intelligent and frustrated Emma desperately longs for. She, growing up in the countryside in France in the 1850s, did not have the freedom to move to Paris on her own, to go to parties and to live a little (she is after all young), or to divorce the husband she did not love.
 
This feature is not intended as a book review, just a space for me to say a little about the books I love. I would be thrilled to hear other’s comments and thoughts too – sort of a comment-thread book club if you will.
 
To end of here is my favourite quote from the book; it is Emma describing her husband: “Charles’s conversation was commonplace as a street pavement, and everyone’s ideas trooped through it in their everyday garb, without exciting emotion, laughter or thought”.
 
 

7 thoughts on “From my bookshelf”

  1. I read Madame Bovary when I was in high school and I think I enioyed it, but now can’t quite remember the storyline. I might just pick it up again and re-read it! Have you read Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence? It is along the same vein as Madame Bovary (adultery, scandal, etc) but HEAPS more…ehm…graphic? I was very surprised that this book could be published in the era that it was!

  2. Hi Jen, i would definitely urge you to read it again. I sometimes regret reading a lot of books in high school or even earlier as now I feel that I didn’t really get the full value because I was so young and had no frame of refernece. I haven’t read Lady Chatterley’s lover yet but we did a collection of Lawrence’s short stories in high school and I remember this one about a woman who moves to a greek island (i think) and starts to walk around naked all the time…I’m sure that one didn’t go down well either.

  3. Thanks for this post! You inspired me to get straight online and download it to read. Pleasant surprise worth noting if anyone else is wanting to do the same: it’s FREE to download for kindle! Another great thing about classics, many of them are often 99cents (or free apparently) on ebook. Kind on forests and wallets 🙂

    1. Thanks so much. Yeah ate the cool thing about classics – most of them are available for free or for a few cents. I also love to buy used secondhand books in the spirit of reduce, reuse and recycle.

  4. Wow, I haven’t read this book in ages. I remember reading it in H.S. along with many classics, but back then, it was more about going through them and just finishing my hw. I do remember the film though. At first I thought Madame Bovary was incredibly vain and selfish woman but then I felt very bad for her in the end. There’s something about that time where a woman couldn’t be herself that makes me think that some people rebel against it in some way and at that time, people judge, as they judge now. I think it was an incredibly good story and a cautionary tale though how we take it now is up to how we feel and understand it. Love this post! ❤

    1. That is exactly how I feel. I haven’t seen the movie but it is so clear in the book. There are so many loathsome qualities about Emma but I do understand her. After all haven’t we all had times when we’ve felt trapped or down and we tried to drown this out with shopping and the acquisition of material things? That is exactly what Emma does but of course she takes it too far. And I feel really sorry for her because she really loved Rodolphe while he treated her like a plaything.

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