Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is one of the most influential - and scandalous - novels of the nineteenth century. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction by Geoffrey Wall, with a preface by Michele Roberts.
Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader 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 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.'
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was born in Rouen. After illness interrupted a career in law, he retired to live with his widowed mother and devote himself to writing. Madame Bovary won instant acclaim upon book publication in 1857, but Flaubert's frank display of adultery in bourgeois France saw him go on trial for immorality, only narrowly escaping conviction. Both Salammbo (1862) and The Sentimental Education (1869) were poorly received, and Flaubert achieved limited success in his own lifetime - but his fame and reputation grew steadily after his death.
If you enjoyed Madame Bovary you might also like Stendhal's The Red and the Black, also available in Penguin Classics.
'Its beauty is enchanting and terrible'
A.S. Byatt, author of Possession
'An extraordinarily innovative work: its style was at once ironic and lyrical, detached and passionate, ambiguous and precise'