Around 500 pages
I was very excited to get my hands on more Flaubert since I, like most people, was only familiar with him because of Madame Bovary. I wasn't overly thrilled by this novel but I don't blame Flaubert. When you have a main character as insufferable as Frederic Moreau, there is little the author can do in way of consolation.
Frederic Moreau is a young countryman who desperately wants to make it in Parisian society but lacks the courage to really try. He falls in love with Madame Arnoux but is unwilling to do anything about it. In fact, he meets quite a few women that he barely has the courage to speak to. In the second half of the novel, he is a bit more courageous but also loses a bit of his kindness. All this is going on during the 1848 French Revolution, although Frederic rather passively watches from the sidelines, despite the involvement of many of his friends.
God, I hate this character. Frederic was constantly getting in the way of his own happiness because of his cowardice. Therefore, he was getting in the way of my happiness by never letting anything interesting happen in his own life. I would have loved to hear about his affairs with married women or his adventures in the Revolution. But no, Frederic wouldn't allow that. Of course, this didn't stop Frederic from admiring himself. At one point, he gazes in the mirror at his reflection for quite a few minutes because he thinks himself so handsome. I am 90% sure I have dated this man.
So is this novel still enjoyable, even with such an insufferable character? Barely. I always enjoy Flaubert's writing style, but I was definitely ready for this book to be over.
Praised by Emile Zola and George Sand.
UP NEXT: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This is a big one, but thankfully, I've already read it so you won't have to wait nine years for a post.