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Publisher's Summary

Set amid the stifling atmosphere of 19th-century bourgeois France, Madame Bovary is at once an unsparing depiction of a woman’s gradual corruption and a savagely ironic study of human shallowness and stupidity. Neither Emma, nor her lovers, nor Homais, the man of science, escapes the author’s searing castigation, and it is the book’s final profound irony that only Charles, Emma’s oxlike, eternally deceived husband, emerges with a measure of human grace through his stubborn and selfless love.

With its rare formal perfection, Madame Bovary represents, as Frank O’Connor has declared, “possibly the most beautifully written book ever composed; undoubtedly the most beautifully written novel…a book that invites superlatives…the most important novel of the century.”

Public Domain (P)2010 Penguin Audio

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  • Esther
  • United States
  • 05-13-13

Ironic, humorous, and restrained

This is one of Kate Reading's better narrations, and the material could not be more compelling. Translated by Lydia Davis (master short story writer!), the book is both light and tragic, humorous and disturbing, emotional and cerebral. Flaubert is one of the few who can do that. The tragedy of Emma and the triumphs of Homais are delicately rendered in this smart translation.

Reading reads with perfect inflections, making Emma sound airy and "arty," Charles slow and pitiful, Leon slippery, etc. No silly attempts at trying to sound male; just excellent infusions of the character's personality into his/her voice to make him/her sound believable. The speed is just right. I've heard other narrations by Kate Reading and some don't match up in quality or direction.

The writing style seems so effortless and light that you almost think Flaubert knocked it out with the wave of a hand, but as you keep listening, you realize what a brilliantly composed, tightly plotted piece this is. Also superb is Davis's introduction in the print version. It's not in the audio version, but if you can get your hands on a print (or digi) copy, by all means, read!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Prose exquisitely mines a range of emotions

Some may not like the nature of the story (and/or its ending). This is no feel-good story, not a "David Copperfield" (which I love). Perhaps, by now, many people realize the basic substance of the story but do not expect its ending. Lydia Davis' prose is exquisite though there are times the audible version differs from the written book.

The novel was ground-breaking in any number of ways, not the least of which is the well of human emotions that surge through one while reading it. The clunky translations of the past took away from the novel and the experience of all of the sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, pity and shame accentuated in this edition.

The narrator does an excellent job both in portraying the pathos of Emma Bovary and in stoking the listener's contempt for her.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Sandra
  • Sierra Madre, CA, United States
  • 02-13-13

Beautifully Narrated Classic

Well, revisiting this novel was more enjoyable than I expected. I remembered it being very depressing and difficult to get through when I was a good deal younger and less tolerant. I am so glad that I was encouraged to get the audible. It really brought the characters alive for me and elicited greater understanding of Flaubert's masterpiece. Although Emma is a very frustrating character, I found her character to be extremely well crafted. Never dull, always held my attention. An audible that I believe would engage many listeners, as a new experience or as a reawakening to this classic. Thanks for this winner!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Bianca
  • Nisksyuna, NY, United States
  • 02-14-13

Wonderful story... flawlessly written and read!

What made the experience of listening to Madame Bovary the most enjoyable?

Flaubert's writing is absolutely beautiful. His work is almost poetic, and his storytelling, especially from Madame Bovary's point-of-view is so intricately woven that I feel I can reach out and touch her. Kate Reading does a fabulous job with this work, and does it great justice.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Madame Bovary is the character I both love and dislike at the same time. She is so real and tangible to the listener, that one cannot help but connect with her, despite her flaws.

Have you listened to any of Kate Reading’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I believe I have listened to her reading of Pride and Prejudice. I think she does a magnificent job. Her voice changes really make you forget you are listening to just one person, yet she is not overly dramatic, which might detract from the experience.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. Unfortunately, I always listen on my way to and from work, so I can only listen to 15-30 minutes at a time!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeb
  • Stinson Beach, CA, United States
  • 06-18-13

Music to My Ears

For those that prefer a tame, civilized bucket list, having Madame Bovary read to you might be worth including. There is nothing to lose and much to gain by listening to a great voice talent read (Kate Reading* narrates the Penguin Classics version). Flaubert’s vision is conveyed so naturally and in such an accessible, believable tone that the translated writing – the choice of words, the construction of the sentences, the grammar – all of it - is hardly noticed at all. This, of course, is the genius of Flaubert, and testimony to the achievement of his goal: “… to write the novel ‘objectively,’ leaving the author out of it.”

In the case of Madame Bovary, Flaubert himself wondered what it would be like to “give psychological analysis the rapidity, clarity, passion of a purely dramatic narration.” And if we agree with translator Lydia Davis about Flaubert’s intentions, we get a better feeling for the importance of the sound of the work: “What he is trying to achieve in this book, instead, is a style that is clear and direct, economical and precise, and at the same time rhythmic, sonorous, musical, and ‘as smooth as marble’ on the surface, with varied sentence structures and with imperceptible transitions from scene to scene and from psychological analysis to action.” (K.L. 133 Introduction by Lydia Davis)

These rhythmic, sonorous, musical qualities can only be heard, and, once heard, perhaps felt in someplace else in mind or body. That doesn’t necessarily mean that in order to hear these qualities we must be listening to someone else. We could conceivably experience these characteristics by listening to the voice in our own head, presupposing that reading does in fact produce the mental equivalent of voice.**

Kate Reading* has narrated 234 audiobooks now available on Amazon. She has received three “Earphones Awards” and has been named by AudioFile magazine as a "Voice of the Century". And so it was no surprise when I found myself completely entranced by her reading. In Madame Bovary, she assumes different dialog voices for each of Flaubert’s many characters (not all narrators do this) and in so doing creates an image in the listener’s mind. Homais is proud and bellicose, Emma is generally soft and earnest. Charles sounds like more of a dullard than he probably is, being a doctor. Rodolphe’s voice is dark and scheming while Monsieur Leon sounds like he just smoked some wickedly strong dope.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Superlative

Madame Bovary lives up to her reputation as a book for the ages. Shocking still and exquisitely written with the detail worthy of a pointillist painting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Tragic melancholy

Extreme detail by the author...sometimes helps to keep you immersed in the story and sometimes felt like it just went on and on for no apparent reason. Poor Mr. Bovary.

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Slow and Steady

This was a book chosen for our book club, as a classic.
I found it mildy interesting, and didn't have trouble listening to it, but I took nothing away either. It seemed to move very slowly, without the content to really grab my attention.
I finished it more out of duty than desire.
The reader was excellent, and it was thus that I was able to continue at a trot.

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Oh what a tangled web we weave

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practiced to deceive. Amazing on how totally oblivious some people can be and how others totally detached from reality. A truly good book for psychoanalysis review. Kate Reading (narrator) was excellent as always. I wished that one of the main characters would have awaken up from their delusions. Yet they only saw what they wanted to see; rather letting their mind avoid deeper issues which lead them to their Fate. This reads more like a Greek tragedy. Interesting though. You want to feel sorry for the main characters, but after sitting back and looking at it again from a distance, you begin to realize they caused all of it on themselves. Life & Love can be bitter teachers with the choice you make. Choose wisely

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Not my favorite translation.

Any additional comments?

I have loved this book for years without the appreciation of how, when or whom translated it from french to english. Lydia Davis does give a modern translation that perhaps will appeal to young adults. I love the humor and eloquent descriptive writing from the Eleanor Marx Aveling translation that seems to be lacking in this version. The first translation into english. 1886.<br/>Before deciding you hate this book, try Eleanor's translation.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful