Cover image for Madame Bovary : provincial lives / Gustave Flaubert ; translated with an introduction and notes by Geoffrey Wall ; preface by Michèle Roberts.
Madame Bovary : provincial lives / Gustave Flaubert ; translated with an introduction and notes by Geoffrey Wall ; preface by Michèle Roberts.

Publication Information:
London : Penguin Books ; New York : Penguin Putnam, 2003.
Physical Description:
xlii, 335 pages ; 20 cm.
General Note:
Translated from the French.
Emma Bovary, bored by her provincial life, is drawn to a more sophisticated world that will demand a terrible price.


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FLA Book Adult General Collection

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Emma is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent devourer of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment, and when real life continues to fail to live up to her romantic expectations, the consequences are devastating. Flaubert's erotically charged and psychologically acute portrayal of Emma Bovary caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857. It was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for his heroine; but Flaubert insisted- 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi.' This modern translation by Flaubert's biographer, Geoffrey Wall, retains all the delicacy and precision of the French original. The edition also contains a preface by the novelist Michele Roberts.

Author Notes

Born in the town of Rouen, in northern France, in 1821, Gustave Flaubert was sent to study law in Paris at the age of 18. After only three years, his career was interrupted and he retired to live with his widowed mother in their family home at Croisset, on the banks of the Seine River. Supported by a private income, he devoted himself to his writing.

Flaubert traveled with writer Maxime du Camp from November 1849 to April 1851 to North Africa, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. When he returned he began Madame Bovary, which appeared first in the Revue in 1856 and in book form the next year. The realistic depiction of adultery was condemned as immoral and Flaubert was prosecuted, but escaped conviction.

Other major works include Salammbo (1862), Sentimental Education (1869), and The Temptation of Saint Antony (1874). His long novel Bouvard et Pecuchet was unfinished at his death in 1880. After his death, Flaubert's fame and reputation grew steadily, strengthened by the publication of his unfinished novel in 1881 and the many volumes of his correspondence.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

New York Review of Books Review

Naxos AudioBooks THE PUBLICATION of Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" in 1857 and of Émile Zola's "Thérèse Raquin" 10 years later roused the French literary establishment against two previously unknown authors who had gone beyond the bounds of all that was held to be morally admissible in fiction with their portraits of adulterous women starved by marriage of sex and romance. The state prosecuted Flaubert for gross indecency, despite the terrible punishment he metes out to his wayward heroine. Zola was not subjected to the same ordeal, but critics treated him as a rogue purveying smut in the name of realism. Both novels have appeared in countless editions since the 19th century. Both have been adapted to the screen. Now they are available as audiobooks, read by two gifted English actresses: "Madame Bovary" by Juliet Stevenson and "Thérèse Raquin" by Kate Winslet. Zola predicted that his work would prove to be a succès d'horreur, and horror is indeed what it portends from the opening scene, which ushers the reader into a narrow Parisian street or "passage" overhung by a dirt-encrusted glass canopy admitting little daylight (today, "passages" that survived Baron Haussmann's reconstruction of Paris under Napoleon III are mostly smart commercial arcades). Residing in this sepulchral milieu are the Raquins: Thérèse; her frail husband, Camille; and her mother-in-law. Thérèse had joined the family long before her marriage. The illegitimate child of Mme. Raquin's brother by an Algerian woman, she had been raised to pamper Camille, first as his childhood companion, then as his nominal spouse. Time passes joylessly for her until Camille introduces a friend named Laurent, whose virile presence releases the "African" stifled by her chlorotic French family. She gives herself passionately to Laurent, and in due course conspires with him to rid herself of Camille. No sooner have the lovers killed him than they discover that what had stood between them also bound them together: The murder consummating their lust extinguishes it. Joined in marriage, the couple marry their villainy and form a ménage à trois with the memory of Camille, who posthumously acquires the power he never enjoyed in life. Even critics otherwise sympathetic to Zola carped at his obvious distortions. To Sainte-Beuve, Zola's Paris, far from illustrating the doctrine of realism, was, in its "utter blackness," a proper backdrop for melodrama. But with Zola one should bear in mind Eric Bentley's dictum that melodrama is the realism, or "naturalism," of the dream life. His Passage du Pont-Neuf, for example, is the archetype of enclosed spaces that harbor violence or depravity throughout his 20-volume saga, "Les Rougon-Macquart." It prefigures the greenhouse in "The Rush for the Spoil," the glass-roofed market in "The Belly of Paris," the derelict country church in "The Sinful Priest," the apartment building in "Pot Luck," the underground maze in "Germinal." Like Balzac, Zola closely investigated his different settings. But what shapes each one is a fantasy of instinctual forces bursting through the structure containing them and leaving a world in ruins. Tree limbs poke into holy naves, well-laid gardens go to seed, locomotives run full steam with no one at the engine, water floods mine shafts. Zola, whose recurrent nightmare was of himself buried alive, could hardly conceive drama without a sacrificial victim. Identity and enclosure, the self and an abode standing islandlike on the margin of some larger settlement are linked again and again in disaster. Kate Winslet's reading proceeds in a rich voice from one extreme of human dysfunction to another - from the internments of deadly routine and obsessive guilt to murder and self-extinction. It tells the story as well as one could wish it told, with perfect diction but an edge of anxiety, maintaining a deliberate pace but anticipating the rush to an abyss. Where Zola's narrative calls for dialogue, Winslet brilliantly impersonates the main characters, becoming by turns an old woman, an effeminate man-child, a vulnerable brute, a desperate vixen. She tells us that she first read "Thérèse Raquin" years ago and was riveted by it. Here we enjoy all the benefit of her long engagement with the novel. "Madame Bovary" features another woman whose quest for fulfillment outside her conjugal prison ultimately leads to suicide. In both novels, pretending is a matter of life and death. While Thérèse wears a mask of contentment to survive as best she can the dreariness of her adoptive family's petit-bourgeois arrangements, Emma Bovary is portrayed as a born actress wed to the belief that real life lies in a Romantic netherworld far removed from rural Normandy. Among the greatest scenes in Flaubert's novel are those that cruelly expose her self-deception. And among these the most ingenious takes place at an agricultural show in Yonville, where Emma and a suave man of means named Rodolphe Boulanger, seated at a tall window behind the town square, witness the spectacle of merchants and peasants assembled to hear a regional councilor glorify animal husbandry. While the government official throws bouquets of rhetoric to the crowd, Rodolphe addresses world-weary rants to Emma. The commotion of livestock being judged for prizes serves as an ironic obbligato to the philanderer's well-rehearsed script. Theater answers theater from either side of the square. All this Stevenson manages with the virtuosity of a quick-change artist, adapting herself to one persona after another: the full-throated functionary, the practiced libertine, the plaintive wife of a country doctor. Flaubert, who would have preferred a life onstage to the career in law he was expected to pursue, always read his sentences aloud. Stevenson - whose movies include "Truly Madly Deeply" and "Bend It Like Beckham" - gives her all, or all that the translation allows, to their worked beauty and expressiveness. Another example is the oblique description, some chapters later, of Emma having sex behind drawn shades in a hackney carriage circling round and round Rouen, to the bewilderment of onlookers. She and her new lover are unseen, but unseen in flagrante delicto, and unheard except for the lover angrily hectoring the coachman to press on. Here as elsewhere, eros travels recklessly. Heeding Flaubert's metaphoric cues, Stevenson reads the blind journey as a dirge timed to the beat of horses' hooves and conducted by a death wish. The scene harks back to the agricultural show, only one or two harvest seasons past in her neighbors' calendar, but long enough ago for Emma to have descended from the Romantic stage to a harlot's mobile boudoir. The audience - now facing her - still sees nothing. Animals still attend her love life. She is fallen, still cherishing dreams of elevation. Kate Winslet has said, in praise of audiobooks, that it is "magical" to have an atmosphere and environment "created entirely for you by somebody else's voice." There are voices and then there are voices. For magic of that kind, Flaubert and Zola are well served by her and Juliet Stevenson. FREDERICK BROWN'S latest book, "The Embrace of Unreason: France, 1914-1940," was published last month.

Library Journal Review

Kate Reading narrates Davis's tightly woven and highly accessible new translation of Flaubert's 1857 literary classic, in which the title character, a middle-class, bored, self-centered woman who is desperately seeking a purpose in life, instead finds herself in a destructive arc. Both translator and reader have won numerous awards for their respective previous works, and this collaboration results in an audio performance that is both polished and engaging. Warmly recommended for any non-French speaker interested in literary classics. [Alternate recordings of previous translations are available from Blackstone Audio, as read by Simon Vance, and from Tantor Audio, as read by Donada Peters.-Ed.]-I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The uncouth schoolboy; The Bovary household; A mother's ambitions; Studies with the cure; Training for medicine; Student life in Rouen; Failure and success; A practice in Normandy; The bailiff's widow; The first Madame Bovary. We were in the prep-room when the Head came in, followed by a new boy in mufti and a beadle carrying a big desk. The sleepers aroused themselves, and we all stood up, putting on a startled look, as if we had been buried in our work. The Head motioned to us to sit down. 'Monsieur Roger,' said he in a quiet tone to the prep master, I've brought you a new boy. He's going into the second. If his conduct and progress are satisfactory, he will be put up with the boys of his own age. ' The new boy had kept in the background, in the corner behind the door, almost out of sight. He was a country lad of about fifteen, and taller than any of us. His hair was clipped straight across the forehead, like a village choirboy's. He seemed a decent enough fellow, but horribly nervous. Although he was not broad across the shoulders, his green cloth jacket, with its black buttons, looked as if it pinched him under the arms and revealed, protruding well beyond the cuffs, a pair of raw, bony wrists, obviously not unaccustomed to exposure. His legs, encased in blue stockings, issued from a pair of drab-coloured breeches, very tightly braced. He had on a pair of thick, clumsy shoes, not particularly well cleaned and plentifully fortified with nails. The master began to hear the boys at their work. The newcomer listened with all his ears, drinking it in as attentively as if he had been in church, not daring to cross his legs or to lean his elbows on the desk, and when two o'clock came and the bell rang for dismissal, the master had to call him back to earth and tell him to line up with the rest of us. It was our custom, when we came in to class, to throw our caps on the floor, in order to have our hands free. As soon as ever we got inside the door, we 'buzzed' them under the form, against the wall, so as to kick up plenty of dust. That was supposed to be 'the thing.' Whether he failed to notice this manoeuvre or whether he was too shy to join in it, it is impossible to say, but when prayers were over he was still nursing his cap. That cap belonged to the composite order of headgear, and in it the heterogeneous characteristics of the busby, the Polish shapska, the bowler, the otterskin toque and the cotton nightcap were simultaneously represented. It was, in short, one of those pathetic objects whose mute unloveliness conveys the infinitely wistful expression we may sometimes note on the face of an idiot. Ovoid in form and stiffened with whalebone, it began with a sort of triple line of sausage-shaped rolls running all round its circumference; next, separated by a red band, came alternate patches of velvet and rabbit-skin; then a kind of bag or sack which culminated in a stiffened polygon elaborately embroidered, whence, at the end of a long, thin cord, hung a ball made out of gold wire, by way of a tassel. The cap was brand-new, and the peak of it all shiny. 'Stand up,' said the master. He stood up, and down went his cap. The whole class began to laugh. He bent down to recover it. One of the boys next to him jogged him with his elbow and knocked it down again. Again he stooped to pick it up. 'You may discard your helmet,' said the master, who had a pretty wit. A shout of laughter from the rest of the class quite put the poor fellow out of countenance, and so flustered was he that he didn't know whether to keep it in his hand, put it on the floor or stick it on his head. He sat down and deposited it on his knees. 'Stand up,' said the master again, 'and tell me your name.' In mumbling tones the new boy stammered out something quite unintelligible. 'Again!' Again came the inarticulate mumble, drowned by the shouts of the class. 'Louder!' rapped out the master sharply. 'Speak up!' Whereupon the boy, in desperation, opened his jaws as wide as they would go and, with the full force of his lungs, as though he were hailing somebody at a distance, fired off the word 'Charbovari.' In an instant the class was in an uproar. The din grew louder and louder, a ceaseless crescendo crested with piercing yells--they shrieked, they howled, they stamped their feet, bellowing at the top of their voices: 'Charbovari! Charbovari!' Then, after a while, the storm began to subside. There would be sporadic outbreaks from time to time, smothered by a terrific effort, or perhaps a titter would fizz along a whole row, or a stifled explosion sputter out here and there, like a half-extinguished fuse. However, beneath a hail of 'impositions,' order was gradually restored. The master--who had had it dictated, spelled out and read over to him--had at length succeeded in getting hold of the name of Charles Bovary, and forthwith he ordered the hapless wretch to go and sit on the dunce's stool, immediately below the seat of authority. He started to obey, stopped short and stood hesitating. 'What are you looking for?' said the master. 'My ca--' began the new boy timidly, casting an anxious glance around him. An angry shout of 'Five hundred lines for the whole class' checked, like the Quos ego, a fresh outburst. 'Stop your noise, then, will you?' continued the master indignantly, mopping his brow with a handkerchief which he had produced from the interior of his cap.   Excerpted from Madame Bovary: Sitten in der Provinz by Gustave Flaubert All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.