If I was looking for a pick-me-up after the likes of The Sound and The Fury and Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary was not it. The novel is definitive Realism, polishing no edges and pulling no blows. I kept finding myself checking the original publication date and wondering how it didn’t start a riot. I learned later that, apparently, it nearly did and the author was charged with obscenity in 1856, though later acquitted.
I enjoyed the book, even… particularly though it made me feel wretched. Every character’s positive traits are balanced, if not exceeded with some terrible shortcoming or weakness that forces you to teeter between hoping they resolve their dilemmas and agreeing with the destinies they’ve earned.
Flaubert artfully dissects the romantic notions of the era and the lifestyle with brutal clarity and honesty. I only wish Madame Bovary had been my first introduction to Realism rather than a certain other writer who shall remain nameless. ;-)