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I will always have mixed feelings regarding Emma Bovary. First it was forced on us at school. That can damage the best books. I read it again twice later and admire the style but I never really liked the heroine that much. I can't help comparing hr to Anna Karenina and Effi Briest. I just saw the books have been published in 20 year steps. Effi is my favourite and her fate seemed the most tragic. Still Mme Bovary is great literature.


I think some people have a talent for discontent and I wonder if Emma is one of them. Would she be happy in a more exotic setting, or would she find something else to be discontent about?


Like Caroline, Madame Bovary was forced upon me for a literature class (here, read this, test on Friday) during a summer college literature class. I was going through my own immature discontent at the time and wanted to scream at Emma. Ah, youth. Your words are drawing me in to the story and I may have to revisit this book with an, ahem, more mature outlook.


When I read this a number of years ago I'm afraid I wasn't very smpathetic to Emma. But you make some good points and now I feel downright sorry for her. I should probaby read this again sometime. How do you like the new translation?

Liz F

Oh dear. Another book which has been on my shelf for literally years without being read! Another one I want to read now too but already being underway with War & Peace and Persuasion and having both The Passage and Faithful Place from the library which can't be renewed, I think that it will have to wait until that mythical time when I can read at civilised hours rather than snatching moments late at night when I keep dozing off!


I also find myself very sympathetic when it comes to Emma. And this reading was quite a revelation to me since I had not read the book in years. Like others, it appears different than I remembered in a very satisfying way.

Thanks for reading with us (at whatever pace works for you :) )


Caroline--Reading certain books in school has a way of ruining them for some people it seems! I think it's entirely possible to not get on with characters in a book yet still appreciate what an author has achieved and Emma is certainly a trying character. Do you know, and this is going to sound awful, but I think I had not even heard of Effi Briest. I have added it to my wishlist and will have to get a copy next time I place a book order! I have to read it since it is compared to Madame B and Anna K!
Ellen--You're right, some people are never happy no matter what the circumstances. Maybe with a more exciting and richer man she would have been? She was terribly used, though, so it is hard to say. She's certainly a complex and interesting character, though.
Penny--It's not fun being forced to read something rather than being taught to appreciate it by someone who themselves love or appreciate it. I always had a thing against Willa Cather and would not read her as she was constantly thrust at us in high school. However I finally read My Antonia--twenty years later, but I read it--and absolutely loved it! I think timing is everything and probably maturity and experience help as well.
Stefanie--It seems a lot of people who read this before and have just read it again now have ended up with a more sympathetic outlook towards her. Maybe you'll get on better with her a second time around. I should really compare the translations, but I am enjoying this very much. The prose feels smooth and elegant not at all clunky as some books that have been translated feel!
Liz--Oh, you're reading Persuasion? That is my favorite Austen novel! I know the feeling only too well. I've gotten in well over my head with half started books--I can't seem to control myself, but I have to try and draw the line with classics--I try and never read more than one at a time. I really liked Faithful Place--not sure which of her books is my favorite--she's just good all around. I took back five books to the library today that couldn't be renewed and had to get in line for one of them again. Three weeks is just Not Enough Time! And I won't even guess at how many unread books I have on my shelves--some of them must be a good twenty years old....
Frances--Thanks for organizing the readalong and for the giveaway. I am really enjoying reading it again--it's nice when you can revisit a book and the experience is even better than the first time around. I'm finding that the case also, though I think I was always fairly sympathetic towards Emma. Still, the prose is gorgeous and a pleasure to read every day. I wish I had planned better and had been able to keep up, but I'll finish soon enough!


Please read Effi Briest and tell me or us what you think of it. I think she is sadly neglected. It is the only of the three books I read with a real joy. I meant to read so much more Fontane but never did. I nly read afew others. Fontane started a writing career at 57. I went throuhg some of my book shelves the other day, finding out which books had been translated (different countries) and I can't understand why so many foreign books are translated into German but not into English.


Caroline--I have an Amazon gift card which I am trying to figure out how to spend--so I will get Effi Briest for sure. It's strange that I've not read about her before--I must have seen the title in passing, but I just don't remember now. And I agree that few books in German are translated into English with the exception of classics and lately crime fiction. I've been trying to look for some as I'd like a view of what contemporary German society is like (actually I am reading Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky so there is one contemporary novel), but often it is only the really big sellers or very literary novels that get chosen, which is fine but not always the best variety. According to the Three Percent Blog only 3% of novels published here in the US are works in translation--very pathetic number!!


Love reading you on Madame Bovary. I think Emma is painfully real, so real that many readers turn away from her and what she represents. Acute unhappiness is one thing, but chronic unhappiness, the prospect of dissatisfaction stretching ahead forever more, is truly unbearable, and it's on that basis that Emma acts, I feel.


I struggled with Emma in my first read of Madame Bovary, as I struggled with Anna Karenina I think. Like you, I am trailing behind in my reading of this book, but I am enjoying every second of it.


Litlove--It is interesting to see the varying responses to Emma-I really do feel bad for her as I sort of understand that feeling of claustrophobia. It is hard when that is all you're faced with--it is not fun being unhappy and you just look for some way out of it!
Iris--I am a slow reader anyway, but when I have a few other books I am reading it can take me a while to finish books. Still, I don't mind reading it slowly and am looking forward also to getting back to Anna K. I will be interesting comparing the two.


"What do you do when you discover the life you wanted to have, hoped to have, turns out to be unsatisfactory?" Yes, indeed: she's devastated by her disappointments. And she has a lot of company on that score, even 150 years later: human, as you say.


BuriedinPrint--I think a lot of people must deal with that emotion--it's something I think about so I think it must have felt really oppressive to her. In any case I am still reading--had to set the book aside as I have a few books that have to be read and returned or written about this week, so I will get back to her in a few days!

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