Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I found Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert on a list of 100 greatest novels or something of the sort. Another book on the list was Anna Karenia by Leo Tolstoy. While they are both 19th century novels - a century that started with Jane Austen and gave English literature Mark Twain and Charles Dickens - and both tell the story of women who lead miserable lives, I felt Anna Karenina was the far superior novel.

While Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a sympathetic character, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is a vain and self-obsessed. In the end Madame Bovary reads like a cautionary tale warning men about the dangers of love and marriage:
the perennial bogey of respectable families - that ill-defined, baleful female, that siren, that fantastic monster forever lurking in the abysses of love.
Given the choice, I'd recommend Tolstoy, though Jane Austen and the Bonte sisters might be better choices for someone looking for literature with women protagonists.

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