Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Lydia Davis
When published in 1857, Madame Bovary was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for its heroine. Emma Bovary, married to the provincial doctor Charles Bovary, is beautiful but bored. She dreams of an elegant and passionate life, yet finds her fantasies dashed by the tedium of her days. Motherhood proves to be a burden; religion is only a brief distraction.
In an effort to make her life everything she believes it should be, she spends lavishly on clothes and on her home and embarks on two disappointing affairs. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, Emma takes drastic action with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter.
Today the novel is considered the first masterpiece of realist fiction. In this landmark translation, Lydia Davis honors the nuances and particulars of a style that has long beguiled readers of French, giving new life in English to the book that redefined the novel as an art form.
“Dazzling . . . translated to perfect pitch . . . [Davis has] left us the richer with this translation. . . . I’d certainly say it is necessary to have hers.” —Jacki Lyden, NPR.org, Favorite Books of the Year