Set amid the stifling atmosphere of 19th-century bourgeois France, Madame Bovary is at once an unsparing depiction of a woman’s gradual corruption and a savagely ironic study of human shallowness and stupidity. Neither Emma, nor her lovers, nor Homais, the man of science, escapes the author’s searing castigation, and it is the book’s final profound irony that only Charles, Emma’s oxlike, eternally deceived husband, emerges with a measure of human grace through his stubborn and selfless love.
With its rare formal perfection, Madame Bovary represents, as Frank O’Connor has declared, “possibly the most beautifully written book ever composed; undoubtedly the most beautifully written novel…a book that invites superlatives…the most important novel of the century.”
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Ironic, humorous, and restrained
Prose exquisitely mines a range of emotions
- W Perry Hall