I have a long and troubled history with this book. I first read it about 20 years ago and hated it. Not because it was bad, but because I saw way too much of myself in Emma, the bad, bad girl. It made me exceedingly uncomfortable. So, when it was assigned as part of the reading for a class I’m taking: The Modern and the Postmodern taught by Michael S. Roth at Wesleyan University, I was tempted to give it a pass.
But then, I remembered that sometimes I’ll see a book completely differently at a different point in life. And Dr. Roth was SO enthusiastic about it, I let myself be carried away.
I’m glad I did, although I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. I’m no longer young and dumb, as Emma Bovary was, but her behavior remains understandable, though not very sympathetic. I still felt really sorry for Charles, without liking him very much. And I enjoyed the beautiful writing so much more this time. The first time around, indignation and defensiveness made it impossible for me to appreciate.
Though I still love anything by Tolstoy better, Madame Bovary stands on its own as a great work of literature.