Tag Archives: Madame Bovary

Bovary vs Karenina

Madame Bovary  and Anna Karenina

Go ahead.  Google the titles together.
I’m not the only one thinking about how the two novels compare.  There are papers, essays, articles, and message boards that consider the similarities and differences of these two classics.

What’s the tie?  Adultery.  Two women sadly, oh, so wrongly, thought that an extramarital affair would bring them happiness.

We could talk about the main characters: Emma and Anna.

We could talk about the husbands: Charles and Alexey.

We could talk about the lovers: Leon, Rodolphe, and Alexey.

We could talk about the children: Berthe, Seryozha, and Anna.

We could talk about social class: lower-middle class and upper class.

We could talk about the authors: Flaubert and Tolstoy.

The list could, and does, go on and on.

I’m sure literary experts have dissected the two books from cover to cover.

What I want to know is “Why am I enjoying reading Anna Karenina?”
I hated Madame Bovary.  I gritted my teeth and plowed through the book.  Sure, at times Flaubert’s carefully crafted prose was a pleasure to read and ponder.  He painted delightful word pictures, but there were many days when I was thankful for the self-imposed reading time my children’s swim lessons gave me: time when I had no choice but to sit on a bleacher and listen to splashing while forcing myself through Emma Bovary’s shallow, self-centered, destructive tale.

I like reading Anna Karenina.  Why?  Anna’s looking for happiness where there can be none.  Just like Emma Bovary!  I have to say that I’m feeling a little guilty for my enjoyment of this title after feeling such dislike for Madame Bovary.  I find myself caring for Anna when while reading about Emma, I just wanted the book to end.

Help me, literary friends.  I have classic book guilt.  Here are two books about adultery and I like one!

Anyone else enjoying Anna K after hating Emma B?


Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary


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Madame Karenina? Anna Bovary?

I read somewhere that Anna Karenina is like Madame Bovary.

In fact our friend Gina shared that her copy of AK has an intro that includes a passing reference to Flaubert and a quote from the Mme B author about Tolstoy: “What an artist and what a psychologist!”

Have you seen any similarities yet?

Oh, yes.  There’s the infidelity.  I’m not giving anything away by mentioning the affairs.  Even the back of my book does.

Then there’s the missing main character.  I’m seventy-five pages into Anna Karenina and have yet to meet her.  Does that sound familiar?  Quite like Mme B, I’d say.

Any other similarities?


Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary


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Who said that?

Let’s play a version of Jeannette’s “Name that Character” game.

I’ll give you a quote, and you tell me who said it.

I can never remember without laughter how I once seduced a lady who was devoted to her husband, her children, and her principles.  What fun it was and how little trouble!

Was it…

A. Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre

B. Rodolphe Boulanger from Madame Bovary

C. Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov from Crime and Punishment

D. George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice

Here’s a hint.

So it’s not Mme B‘s Rodolphe.  But didn’t it sound just like him?

So what was the correct answer?

Yes, you’re right!  The answer was C.
C for Crime and Punishment.  C for Creepy Svidrigaïlov.  C for Connections to other Characters.

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary


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I watched Mme. Bovary in French.

That’s right!  It wasn’t until I got the movie home from the library and popped it in the DVD player that I realized this 1991 version of Flaubert’s classic is in French!

I admit it was difficult for me to watch a film version of a book I did not enjoy.  At times I even watched the movie in fast forward, quickly reading the subtitled dialogue as is flashed on the screen.

The movie begins with Charles Bovary attending to the broken leg of Emma’s father.  It skips Charles’ years of schooling and the first Mme Charles Bovary entirely.  While brief the wedding scene did include the violinist leading the people through a field and gave a close up of Charles cutting the amazingly constructed wedding cake.

Having watched other movies made from classic novels, I know that changes are always made.  Scenes are shortened.  Directors choose to be dramatic.  Parts are missing or moved.  This retelling of the book was relatively faithful.  I noticed several times where actors quoted lines directly from Flaubert’s text.  There is a narrator whose voice shares Emma’s thoughts with the viewer.  A glimpse of Emma with white arsenic powder all over her face was disturbing. The ending is most definitely shortened which I did not mind.

In fact, my middle child watched the last few minutes of the movie with me (in fast forward).  We talked a little bit about how I had not enjoyed the movie version any more than I had enjoyed the novel.  He asked if I had bought a copy of the book to read.  I replied, “Yes.”  He commented, “That’s too bad.  You’ll probably never read it again, like you would Moby-Dick.”  At my guffaw, he insisted, “Mom, you would Moby-Dick again.  Right?”

Would you read Moby-Dick again?
Would you read Madame Bovary again?
What are you thoughts about novels turned into movies?


Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Her what?!

For my first installment of “What’s on my nightstand?” I’d like to share a book with a great title.

Madame Bovary’s Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature

Oh yes, classic novels interpreted through the lens of science.

The book was written by a father-daughter team: David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash.  Dad is an evolutionary psychologist and, at the time of publication, his daughter was an undergraduate student.

It’s disclosure time.  I am a Christian who believes God created the world in six days.  Soooo I’m not buying into Darwin’s theory.  But, what I’ve read so far in Madame Bovary’s Ovaries (the intro and one chapter) has been interesting.

Each chapter focuses on a different subject commonly found in literature: jealousy, love, family relationships, etc.  Each chapter also uses examples from literature to support the evolutionary argument.  Or maybe it’s that evolutionary theory is explaining the classic literature?  The chapter titled “Madame Bovary’s Ovaries” discusses “The Biology of Adultery”.  There’s another chapter titled “The Key to Jane Austen’s Heart: What Women Want, and Why”.

Here’s what the authors have to say about their work.

“Our basic premise is simple enough, although oddly revolutionary at the same time: that people are biological creatures and that as such they share a universal, evolved human nature.  Add to this our second basic principle: that evolutionary psychology, a decidedly nonfiction science, has been discovering why human beings behave as they do, and that it offers a raft of refreshing, rewarding, challenging insights into the world of fiction no less than that of fact.”

Madame Bovary’s Ovaries… it’s one of the books on my nightstand.


Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Hurry up!

I’ve mentioned that I took Madame Bovary camping.  While my children played in the cool water of Lake Superior, I relaxed in a beach chair and read.

One evening I continued reading while my crew prepared that night’s s’more fire.

“Mom?  Are you going to keep reading?  Don’t you want s’mores?”
“Yes, I’ll eat s’mores.  I’m just waiting for this character to die.”
“Die?”  “Who’s dying?”  “How are they going to die?”

I gave a “cleaned-up” version of the plot, went back to reading, and was amused every time one of my children asked, “Is she dead yet?”

I finished Madame Bovary the next morning as the sunshine poured through the windows of our rustic cabin and my exhausted family continued sleeping.  Upon waking, the first thing they wanted to know was, “Is she dead?”

“Yep.  and her husband died too.”


Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Check out Madame Bovary here, here, here, here, here…and here!

We’re nearing the end of our posts about Madame Bovary and looking forward to starting Crime and Punishment.


We’d love for you to visit our blogging friends to read what they have to say about Flaubert’s masterpiece.

Tonia blogs at The Sunny Patch.  It was Tonia that shared about the Madame Bovary/Madame Blueberry (VeggieTales) connection.  See what she has to say here, here, here.  Oh,  here and here too!

Jean blogs at Howling Frog Books.  She wrote a post for each of the three parts of the novel.  Read her insights here, here, and here

Steph blogs at Five Alarm Book Reviews.  She uses a book discussion group at Goodreads and also talks about the cover art of this version.  Check out what she writes here and here.
ETA: Steph has written a great review of Mme B here.

And!  Look over the comments that our many WEM friends leave us.  They’re smart people.

We are delighted to have friends on our literary journey.

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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Angelic Emma

Madame Bovary Part III chapter 5

Emma is with Léon at the hotel room they regularly share.

She was the lover in every novel, the heroine in every play, the vague she in every column of poetry.  On her shoulders he found the amber colours of Odalisque au bain; she had the long body of some feudal chatelaine; and she looked like the pale woman of Barcelona, but supremely she was the Angel.

but supremely she was the Angel.”

She was the Angel.

the Angel?

The married woman having an affair is an angel?  I’m sorry, THE Angel?

In the margin of my book I wrote the words, “Ha!  She’s the opposite of an angel!”

I find this disturbing.  Emma’s nothing like the messengers of God that I’m familiar with from the Bible.

In other disturbing news… Did anyone catch that in the same chapter Emma calls Léon “child”?

She used to call him child.
–Child, do you love me?
And she scarcely heard his answer, for the suddenness of his lips seeking her mouth.

Ewww.  Ick.  and Yuck.


Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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That Draper Dude

Let’s talk about Lheureux, Monsieur Lheureux, the draper.

First of all, a draper is “a retail merchant who sells clothing and dry goods”.

Madam Bovary’s draper seems to be a high-end draper.  He deals in expensive items, or maybe he sees greed and unhappiness written all over Emma and plays into her discontent.

Lheureux always knows exactly what Emma will be needing even before she knows it herself.

I can’t imagine if a Target employee stopped by my house with a cart full of delightful goodies, pushed it into my hands, and then said that the store were going to do some creative financing so that I wouldn’t have to pay for my new purchases until much, much later.  Tempting.

So Lheureux has his finger on the pulse of Emma’s material greed, but he’s not just a merchant.  Madame Bovary’s draper seems to have some side businesses as well: money lending and potential blackmailing.  He knows more about Emma than a businessman should, but at the same time, Emma’s not exactly discreet.

As I read, I kept feeling like I should know the word “L’heureux” from high school French years ago.  My memory failed me on the meaning of the word, so I looked it up.

heureux: felicitous, fortunate, glad, happy, pleased, lucky, good, excellent


Like I do most other door-to-door salespeople, I believe I’d ignore Lheureux’s knock.

What were your impressions of the draper?


Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Traveling with Madame

I took Madame Bovary camping.
Ironic, right?!  Emma Bovary in her swishing skirts and veil camping!

As I sat at our rustic cabin’s picnic table, covered in bug spray, sunscreen and wood smoke, I thought to myself,
“Ha!  Take that Emma B.  You and your fancy-pants self.”

“I can read all about your fru-fru orders to the draper for dress fabric, arm-chair covers and bric-a-brac, but just know this… I haven’t had a shower in three days!”


Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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