Madame Bovary Read-A-Long, Week 2

October 22, 2010

During the month of October, Frances of Nonsuch Book is hosting a read-a-long of Madame Bovary. I have somehow owned two copies of the book for years upon years, but have never gotten past the first few pages … so I’m joining in!

This week, we have read Part II of the book.

I have to start by saying that I’m very happy that I’m reading Madame Bovary as part of a read-a-long. I probably would have given up on this book – again! – if I hadn’t committed myself to reading it with other people.

It’s not that I find the story itself boring, though it isn’t exactly the most engaging book I’ve ever read. What I find hard to get through is the convoluted prose. I’m not sure if it’s because of Flaubert’s original text, or simply the translation that I’m reading, but I have found myself quite often slipping into a state of reading where I’m not actually absorbing anything that I’m running my eyes across. Sometimes, I don’t really grasp what is being said – the text doesn’t make clear sense, and I find myself having to guess at what is meant by a certain passage.

And, in the end, I’m just not accustomed to reading “classics”, which have a style all their own in contrast with contemporary literature, which is what I normally read. This is probably the most challenging barrier for me – not because I can’t read “difficult” literature, but because I normally choose not to, so I have to give myself sufficient reason to stick with it.

Now that I’ve finished part two, I’m starting to be more glad that I’ve stuck with Madame Bovary. Things have picked up quite a bit, and there’s a lot more to figure out about each character and the way they interact with other characters. I enjoyed reading about the “affair” between Rodolphe and Emma, even though I thought that it was ridiculous in some ways. The way she acted, becoming more and more dependent on him and not realizing the whole time that she was just a diversion to him … I just wanted to smack some sense into her!

I get that she’s unhappy with her marriage with Charles, for whatever her reasons. Why doesn’t she just say so?! Charles has absolutely no idea that she’s unhappy enough to be looking elsewhere for male attention and love; perhaps he would be more understanding than she expects. Maybe he would be able to do something to make her happier! Even if all he does is sit down, talk to Emma, and listen to her concerns, that has to be a better option than all of this sneaking around behind his back planning to take her child and move away.

I have to confess that I find Emma’s constant moping to be rather irritating. I’m really hoping that something will happen in part three to pick things up. (Somehow, I seem to be one of the few people who doesn’t know how the book ends, so I’ve been avoiding people’s blog posts that have gone on farther than the end of part two.) I don’t necessarily have to end up liking Emma’s choices, but I’d like for at least something logical to happen!

5 Comments

  • Frances October 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

    What translation are you reading? That could be part of the problem. That and Flaubert is pretty tricky when it comes to his narrative shifts. More than a few of us have stopped to question narrative voice as we read through. Thanks for sticking with us and hopefully by next week you still think it was worth the effort.

    • Carina October 23, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      It’s a “Wordsworth Classics” edition from 1994 – for the life of me, I can’t find the name of the translator anywhere in this book! That gives me even more reason to believe that it might be the specific translation.

  • Marie October 25, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I know what you mean about Emma. She’s so annoying. I’m really having a hard time sympathizing with her. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book on balance though- it’s a great novel even if it’s a little hard to relate to now an then. I think a lot of the mental blocks I know I have about “classics” go away once I start reading them and see how much the people in them are like people today.

  • Shelley October 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    This has been great to read as part of a readalong. I’ve gotten so much more out of it than I would have on my own, and I’m loving it. I’m not an expert on translations, but I can say the Lydia Davis one is not convoluted at all, and quite readable.

  • BuriedInPrint November 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    When I was reading this on a commute, I would catch my eyes just slipping across the page and have to flip back to figure out where my attention had slipped between descriptive phrases: the Read-a-Long definitely kept me reading too!

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