Allow me to say that after graduating from college I was filled with a desire to read as many classics as I possibly could. All of the books that I had previously not read I had a goal of reading and bit by bit I acquired those books. Madame Bovary was never high on my list - I knew very little about it other than it was considered a "classic" and remained pretty oblivious until I picked up the book. Mind you, this book is a translation and I settled on one by Lydia Davis after reading this New York Books article way back in 2010 (when I bought the book). I was so excited to read it and yet... it sat unread for the past two years.
But it kept staring me down with that intriguing cover and vague memories of the article I had read long ago. Finally, with the brink of fall upon me, I picked the book up and began to read it.
At first I was devouring it. The main character, Emma, so reminded me of myself. She lived in the country with large dreams of the city. She wanted to see the world, learn so much, and fall in love. I can understand that - I'm a daydreamer and I lived in the country. Now I live closer to the city and I still daydream nearly continuously. Emma is married to the slightly dim but sweet and caring Charles whom I loved instantly. This guy is willing to do anything for Emma. He would move the sun and the moon for this woman. How lovely to have someone so passionately adoring of you. But that's not enough for our Emma.
Really, the character is despicable and I don't honestly understand how this book has such a big following. Lydia Davis certainly gave the book a pretty quality in English. I'm not fluent in French so maybe the book is better in the original language however the plot and character of Emma, no matter how lovely of a translator Lydia Davis is, is dreadful. This whiny little brat of a woman who endlessly is complaining about her life and how it could always be better.
She's terrible to her daughter, pushing her away and always whining, "Leave me alone!" or "Go away!" to the child (who ends up crying - how heartbreaking!) or to her husband (who quickly listens because, like I said, he will do anything for this brat). She wants what she wants and forget those whom she may hurt in the process.
When she found out she was pregnant she hoped so much that she would have a boy because women just didn't have the opportunities men did. When she discovered the baby was a girl she fainted. How horrible her life is that she never gets what she wants! Her daughter will suffer as she had because she's a woman! Well, you would think that someone with that mindset would push to make her daughter have a better life but Emma's own selfishness is the destructive force of her daughter's chances in life.
Just... this character, the entire tale of Emma, is so disgusting and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I don't understand how so many people are absolutely in love with this book. I don't understand how it has stuck with them. I made it halfway through the book and it wasn't getting any better but so many people had written reviews praising it, saying that while Emma was despicable she stayed with them and they loved the book, so I thought that maybe - surely - the book was going to get better before its final pages but it only came out to be a slow car crash.
I was so glad when I finally finished the book and tossed it aside with disgust. What a horrible main character. This book was like pulling teeth and I'm glad that while it's a classic and was on my 'to-read' list for so long, I'm done with it. I'm packing the book up and sending it to Pennsylvania. The next time I'm in the area I'll sell it to a local bookstore so that one of the (seemingly) many people who love this book can grab the book and give it the attention it needs because it certainly won't be getting any attention from myself.