Madame Bovary

Abridged Audiobook

Written By: Gustave Flaubert

Narrated By: Jenny Agutter

Publisher: The Copyright Group Ltd.

Date: May 2017

Duration: 2 hours 24 minutes

Summary:

Gustave Flaubert's intimate portrait of Emma Bovary's passionate yearnings for love and excitement, and his scrutiny of the dull provincial world in which she is trapped, create one of the finest French novels of the 19th century. His deep exploration of Emma's emotions and motivations takes the reader inside her mind to long and suffer with her. The detailed descriptions of day to day life in Yonville-L'Abbaye provide a strong sense of authenticity - hence Madame Bovary is often termed the first 'realist' novel. 1. THREE MADAME BOVARYS. Charles Bovary, a dull man, attends medical school at his mother's wish. Passing his exams the second time, he takes a post which his mother finds for him, and at her command marries a rich, middle-age widow, Heloise. The marriage is unhappy, however, for Heloise bullies the weak-willed Charles. Very different is the beautiful young Emma Rouault, whom he meets while treating her father. When Heloise dies, Charles proposes to Emma. She knows little of the world and finds marriage to Charles a disappointment. She sinks into depression and to restore her, Charles moves them Yonville. 2. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. The Bovarys, arriving at Yonville, go to its inn, the Lion d'Or. There Charles talks to Homais, the self-important chemist, and Emma to the lawyer's clerk, Leon Dupuis. She thinks she has found a meeting of true minds in this sentimental young man with his limpid blue eyes and they fall in love. This meeting is far more important to Emma than the subsequent birth of her daughter, whom she neglects. But although she thinks Leon returns her love, she struggles to repress it. 3. NEW ATTRACTION. Leon, frustrated by life in Yonville, with Emma seeming aloof, decides to pursue his legal studies in Paris, his departure provokes storms of grief from everybody, expect Emma, who hides her emotions. They say goodbye calmly, Emma holding back her tears. But the memory of Leon dominates her empty life, and her health worsens again. Madame Bovary senior, on a visit, spitefully recommends manual labour for her. Then Rodolphe Boulanger, a local landowner, brings a servant to Charles for treatment. Rodolphe sees that Emma is totally bored with her narrow life and, charmed by her beauty, decides to seduce her. 4. A SEDUCATION. Rodolphe sets out to seduce Emma, cynically playing on her romantic feelings. At the agricultural show, he takes her aside to tell her how miserable he is and how mediocre he finds the provincial people around him. Emma is amazed but, instantly captivated, believes him to share her secret dreams of a more fulfilled life. Rodolphe then lets six weeks pass before next seeing her, in a calculated build-up of tension that wins her heart. They go riding together through the autumn mist and dismount in a wood. There, Rodolphe makes his amorous advances and Emma, protesting feebly at first, succumbs to his charms. 5. WILD DREAMS. All winter, Emma sees Rodolphe regularly for passionate night-time trysts. Rodolphe, although delighted by her innocence and beauty, comes to find her tiring. She begins writing him notes during the day and frets to go away, despite her child. Finally he agrees to take both her and her child abroad; Emma, vastly excited, orders may expensive things from Lheureux, the draper. But at the last minute, Rodolphe writes Emma a note breaking off the affair. 6. DEEP DESPAIR. When Emma receives Rodolphe's note, concealed in a basket of apricots, she is overwhelmed and collapses with grief. For 43 days she lies in a coma, bubbling about a letter she has dropped but which is not found. Slowly, she recovers; meanwhile, Charles is plagued by debts, but he accepts Homais' advice to take Emma to the theatre at Rouen as a distraction. There, looking beautiful, she once again meets Leon, who is now much more sophisticated. 7. ECSTASY AND ANGUISH. Leon comes to see Emma at her hotel the next day and they become lovers. As an excuse to visit Leon regularly, she feigns an interest in the piano and Charles good-heartedly spends ecstatic afternoons with Leon in bed, caring nothing for the outside world. But this, with its unpaid bills, is closing in. Lheureux, who has dishonestly doubled his bills, passes them to a third party, who calls in the bailiff. Emma calls on Rodolphe for help, but he is unmoved. In despair, she goes to the chemist and demands arsenic from the young assistant, Justin, who is besotted with her. Appalled, he watches her swallow it. 8. TWO DEATHS. Charles, appalled at the bailiff's action, has been looking everywhere for Emma. At last he finds her, lying ill in bed. When she starts vomiting, he begs for the truth. Soon Emma is convulsed with the agonies of arsenic poisoning, and she dies a terrible death, watched by Charles, Homais and the priest. After her funeral, Charles finds Rodolphe's dismissive note but does not realise Emma's infidelity until he finds all Leon's letters in a secret drawer in the attic. The next day, Charles dies of heartbreak and it is discovered that he is penniless. Homais continues his successful, thriving business.

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