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Madame Bovary of the Suburbs

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Madame Bovary of the Suburbs.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Sophie Divry(Author) Alison Anderson(Translator)

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The story of a woman's life, from childhood to death, somewhere in provincial France, from the 1950s to just shy of 2025.

She has doting parents, does well at school, finds a loving husband after one abortive attempt at passion, buys a big house with a moonlit terrace, makes decent money, has children, changes jobs, retires, grows old and dies. All in the comfort that the middle-classes have grown accustomed to.

But she's bored.

She takes up all sorts of outlets to try to make something happen in her life: adultery, charity work, esotericism, manic house-cleaning, motherhood and various hobbies - each one abandoned faster than the last. But no matter what she does, her life remains unfocussed and unfulfilled. Nothing truly satisfies her, because deep down - just like the town where she lives - the landscape is non-descript, flat, horizontal.

Sophie Divry dramatises the philosophical conflict between freedom and comfort that marks women's lives in a materialistic world. Our heroine is an endearing, contemporary Emma Bovary, and Divry's prose will remind readers of the best of Houellebecq, the cold, implacable historian who paints a precise portrait of an era and those who inhabit it and in doing so renders existence indelibly absurd.

Translated from the French by Alison Anderson

With its winks and nods to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, this is one of themost exciting finds of the season (Le Monde)The most paradoxical novel of the season: depressing, even desperately so, but at the same time, profoundly exalting, gentle and fluid (L’Hebdo)One can't help thinking of Houellebecq when talking about Madame Bovary of the Suburbs(Elle)

2.5 (4491)
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Review Text

  • By Richard Adams on 1 August 2017

    Madame Bovary of the Suburbs is written in a way that is consciously boring, low key (apart from descriptions of a single affair that the lead character has), objective and observational. Nevertheless as you read it you realise that it is deliberately constructed to replicate the style of the woman’s life that it describes, from birth in 1954 to death aged eighty.It shares some of the themes of Madame Bovary but the story Is different in many ways, much less dramatic, carried along by well-written observational and descriptive detail of an ordinary life in provincial France where MA, the otherwise nameless Madame Bovary of the title, grows up, works, marries, has children, an affair, and, for the most part, is portrayed as existing and having to make conscious efforts to engage with or in anything other than her children and grandchildren.In some ways it is disturbing because, male or female, it’s possible to see a part of one’s own attitudes (or at least mine) reflected in MA’s journey. Like the Peggy Lee song the constant unstated refrain seems to be ‘Is that all there is?’ although MA’s attempts to engage with anything spiritual seem to be confined to a brief experience of yoga and some aspects of its related philosophy and a period of interest in the arts – though even this is stimulated by a friend whom she aspires to emulate.MA has depression, has psychotherapy, but never emerges as a particularly sympathetic character because she sets her goals and interest on things that are either mundane, or a la mode without enquiring if there is any underlying substance or life-satisfaction in them. The affair is (possibly) the exception, driven first by marital boredom, then growing desire which turns to mutually satisfying, demanding, sex and then by a one-sided love on her part, break-up and her breakdown. The after-effects seem to merge into menopausal angst and a constant dissatisfaction with her life and her body.A bleak portrait, ordinary rather than tragic, but stimulating because it could focus the reader’s attention on what are the things that make up a satisfying and fulfilled life.

  • By SJH @ A Dream of Books on 3 August 2017

    What initially drew me to this title was the idea of it being a contemporary reimagining of Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' which is one of my favourite books. This isn't a direct retelling as the author takes her main character in a slightly different direction to Flaubert but there are a lot of similarities. Translated from the French by Alison Anderson, this was a story that I could identify with at times and which charts the path of one woman's life from cradle to grave.The book had an extremely unusual and unique narrative style which at first I wasn't sure I was going to get on with. It employs a second person narrative which I'm not entirely sure I've come across before but Divry uses it so effectively that it just fits the story beautifully. It almost seems to speak to the reader and I think this works well with the idea that the main character, M.A. shares a fate which could belong to any one of us. Her story is universal.Never properly named, M.A. is seen growing from childhood into adulthood and traversing the various stages of life's well trodden path. She grows up longing to move away from her parents and her childhood home and embark upon a new adventure. She goes to university, she has her first boyfriend, she marries, has children and does everything that is expected of her, even while she wishes for something more. Something which she can't quite name and always seems to be just out of her reach. The circle of life is effectively portrayed as she grows older and morphs into the role that her parents once had.This was a very different read to the one that I started out thinking it was going to be and while it reflects many aspects of the original, it is also exquisitely unique. I love the way in which Divry presents the character of M.A. and her search for more out of life. She is never content with what she has and always appears to be looking towards the next thing and the next without ever truly being satisfied. This is a book that I would highly recommend by an accomplished author who I will be keeping my eye on in the future.


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