(P)2008 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
I highly recommend this edition of Sentimental Education. The narrator is excellent. As others have commented, his pronunciation of the french names and places sounds excellent and his dramatization of each character is really superb. When Frederic is eulogizing Madame Arnoux near the beginning, the tone can get cloying, but then what is being said is itself cloying. In Madame Bovary, Emma is depicted as the victim of having read too many romance novels. Flaubert later said about Emma, 'C'est moi.' Sentimental Education is further evidence of this infatuation with despiritualized chivalric romance as described by Denis de Rougemont in 'Love in the Western World.' One definitely can't say that Frederic is made a better person, or performs more honorable actions as a result of this love. I'm not prepared to admire a 'love' that makes someone worse than they might have otherwise been. If you can stomach the flowery rhapsodies early on, the novel is rewarding. I ended up hoping that no woman would get stuck with the wimpy, vain and self-involved Frederic. You can't help sympathizing with him because the novel is written from his perspective, but objectively, he's a miserable fellow in both senses of the adjective.
"Didn’t get very far with the horrible narration"
Narration takes any joy from Flaubert’s work and the listening process, melodramatically whining every word as if he’s about to cry, and very random parts are stressed - ‘He sat in a… chair! … and started eating’, characters are either evil sounding villains or simpering children and any debate is spat out too fast and harshly.
"La belle et la b?te"
It is always worth working methodically through the works of a great writer since you are invariably rewarded with a greater understanding of a favourite work or a more general appreciation of the context of what you have enjoyed. Such with ?Madame Bovary.? ?Sentimental Education? centres on Parisian life rather than the mores of the more rural Rouen. It is, in large part, a catalogue of names and places and small events ? a true picaresque. You might like to take a leap and compare it with Martin Amis, but this only works insofar as neither this work, nor the lout?s collected oeuvre are that enjoyable or satisfying. Required reading and a hard won education against the earlier and altogether more superior work.
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