Category: Gustave Flaubert

book of books – A Sentimental Education


It is a clever technique to set the characters of a story into a historical situation that can impact on them when required to stir some action and reflect their characteristics. Tolstoy does it brilliantly in War and Peace and there are scenes in Gustave Flaubert’s book that remind you of how it is easy to get caught up in the crowd.

Central to A Sentimental Education is Frederic, an ambitious country lad who wants to succeed, who from the very outset falls in love with a married woman and his chase for her shapes his destiny. Flaubert also introduces a best friend from school who is slightly more successful in his studies and career but in his chase for fame and fortune opts for politics and in the end the two friends compare their failure in both approaches.

Plot summary
Frederic is studying in Paris when he comes across Madame Arnoux who he falls in love with and in order to come into her orbit starts to hand around with her husband who runs an art gallery and magazine. As Frederic extends into the artistic circle around Arnoux he tries to increase his links with Madame Arnoux but he is set back firstly by his own financial problems and then by hers as her husband’s business ventures fail and they eventually have to leave Paris to escape their debts. Meanwhile the revolutionists are threatening to overthrow the monarchy and as he jostles for power Frederic gets involved with Arnoux’s mistress, taking her as his own, and then sets out to seduce a bankers wife because of the feeling of success such a conquest would give him. But in the end he only really loves Madame Arnoux and although they meet again and discuss their love it never amounts to anything and she leaves to age in Brittany. Meanwhile Frederic’s friends have had mixed fortunes with some doing well out of the revolution and others, including his best friend, failing to make the most of the changing conditions.

Is it well written?
The revolution, rise of friends and the chase to become successful are all seen through the eyes of Frederic the provincial and although you never quite feel an over whelming sympathy for him you do want him to find love. The fact that he never manages to secure it is perhaps because he was too sentimental but also a result of position in French society and the disadvantages of a provincial upbringing. The story develops and the ending is never certain and this deserves to be read by anyone who enjoyed Madame Bovary. The character he is also looking for something that they fail to find but it is a more rounded study not just of the search for love but also of the difficulty breaking out of a class strata into another position in French society.

Should it be read?
It is not as well known as Madame Bovary and presumably that is partly because it is not as much of a scandal for men to bed hop but this is as powerful. In the end it is not just Madame Arnoux that is beyond Frederic but the riches of the elite. The class debate runs through the book with the revolutionary background and so on that level it belongs to that strain of literature that uses political unrest as a background. But it also is worth reading as a study of personal growth and the risks of independence and the personal costs of making the wrong decisions. We have all grown up with regrets and as a result we can all identify with Frederic.

Summary
A provincial law student is smitten after seeing Madame Arnoux and spends the rest of his youth chasing a dream of her only to be left with nothing but maybes and dreams

Version read – Oxford University Press World’s Classics paperback

Advertisements

book of books – A Sentimental Education


It is a clever technique to set the characters of a story into a historical situation that can impact on them when required to stir some action and reflect their characteristics. Tolstoy does it brilliantly in War and Peace and there are scenes in Gustave Flaubert’s book that remind you of how it is easy to get caught up in the crowd.

Central to A Sentimental Education is Frederic, an ambitious country lad who wants to succeed, who from the very outset falls in love with a married woman and his chase for her shapes his destiny. Flaubert also introduces a best friend from school who is slightly more successful in his studies and career but in his chase for fame and fortune opts for politics and in the end the two friends compare their failure in both approaches.

Plot summary
Frederic is studying in Paris when he comes across Madame Arnoux who he falls in love with and in order to come into her orbit starts to hand around with her husband who runs an art gallery and magazine. As Frederic extends into the artistic circle around Arnoux he tries to increase his links with Madame Arnoux but he is set back firstly by his own financial problems and then by hers as her husband’s business ventures fail and they eventually have to leave Paris to escape their debts. Meanwhile the revolutionists are threatening to overthrow the monarchy and as he jostles for power Frederic gets involved with Arnoux’s mistress, taking her as his own, and then sets out to seduce a bankers wife because of the feeling of success such a conquest would give him. But in the end he only really loves Madame Arnoux and although they meet again and discuss their love it never amounts to anything and she leaves to age in Brittany. Meanwhile Frederic’s friends have had mixed fortunes with some doing well out of the revolution and others, including his best friend, failing to make the most of the changing conditions.

Is it well written?
The revolution, rise of friends and the chase to become successful are all seen through the eyes of Frederic the provincial and although you never quite feel an over whelming sympathy for him you do want him to find love. The fact that he never manages to secure it is perhaps because he was too sentimental but also a result of position in French society and the disadvantages of a provincial upbringing. The story develops and the ending is never certain and this deserves to be read by anyone who enjoyed Madame Bovary. The character he is also looking for something that they fail to find but it is a more rounded study not just of the search for love but also of the difficulty breaking out of a class strata into another position in French society.

Should it be read?
It is not as well known as Madame Bovary and presumably that is partly because it is not as much of a scandal for men to bed hop but this is as powerful. In the end it is not just Madame Arnoux that is beyond Frederic but the riches of the elite. The class debate runs through the book with the revolutionary background and so on that level it belongs to that strain of literature that uses political unrest as a background. But it also is worth reading as a study of personal growth and the risks of independence and the personal costs of making the wrong decisions. We have all grown up with regrets and as a result we can all identify with Frederic.

Summary
A provincial law student is smitten after seeing Madame Arnoux and spends the rest of his youth chasing a dream of her only to be left with nothing but maybes and dreams

Version read – Oxford University Press World’s Classics paperback

book of books – A Sentimental Education


It is a clever technique to set the characters of a story into a historical situation that can impact on them when required to stir some action and reflect their characteristics. Tolstoy does it brilliantly in War and Peace and there are scenes in Gustave Flaubert’s book that remind you of how it is easy to get caught up in the crowd.

Central to A Sentimental Education is Frederic, an ambitious country lad who wants to succeed, who from the very outset falls in love with a married woman and his chase for her shapes his destiny. Flaubert also introduces a best friend from school who is slightly more successful in his studies and career but in his chase for fame and fortune opts for politics and in the end the two friends compare their failure in both approaches.

Plot summary
Frederic is studying in Paris when he comes across Madame Arnoux who he falls in love with and in order to come into her orbit starts to hand around with her husband who runs an art gallery and magazine. As Frederic extends into the artistic circle around Arnoux he tries to increase his links with Madame Arnoux but he is set back firstly by his own financial problems and then by hers as her husband’s business ventures fail and they eventually have to leave Paris to escape their debts. Meanwhile the revolutionists are threatening to overthrow the monarchy and as he jostles for power Frederic gets involved with Arnoux’s mistress, taking her as his own, and then sets out to seduce a bankers wife because of the feeling of success such a conquest would give him. But in the end he only really loves Madame Arnoux and although they meet again and discuss their love it never amounts to anything and she leaves to age in Brittany. Meanwhile Frederic’s friends have had mixed fortunes with some doing well out of the revolution and others, including his best friend, failing to make the most of the changing conditions.

Is it well written?
The revolution, rise of friends and the chase to become successful are all seen through the eyes of Frederic the provincial and although you never quite feel an over whelming sympathy for him you do want him to find love. The fact that he never manages to secure it is perhaps because he was too sentimental but also a result of position in French society and the disadvantages of a provincial upbringing. The story develops and the ending is never certain and this deserves to be read by anyone who enjoyed Madame Bovary. The character he is also looking for something that they fail to find but it is a more rounded study not just of the search for love but also of the difficulty breaking out of a class strata into another position in French society.

Should it be read?
It is not as well known as Madame Bovary and presumably that is partly because it is not as much of a scandal for men to bed hop but this is as powerful. In the end it is not just Madame Arnoux that is beyond Frederic but the riches of the elite. The class debate runs through the book with the revolutionary background and so on that level it belongs to that strain of literature that uses political unrest as a background. But it also is worth reading as a study of personal growth and the risks of independence and the personal costs of making the wrong decisions. We have all grown up with regrets and as a result we can all identify with Frederic.

Summary
A provincial law student is smitten after seeing Madame Arnoux and spends the rest of his youth chasing a dream of her only to be left with nothing but maybes and dreams

Version read – Oxford University Press World’s Classics paperback

A Sentimenal Education – post VI

The book ends with everything being wrapped up and Frederic missing out on his dreams of finding true love but he ends with his childhood friend Deslauriers who has also missed out on what he wanted from life – power – and all of the loose ends are tied up.

At the risk of stealing some thunder from a full review there is a great quote that sort of sums up what the book has been about:

“They’d both been failures, the one who’d dreamed of Love and the one who’d dreamed of power. How had it come about?
‘Perhaps it was lack of perseverance?’ said Frederic.
‘For you maybe. For me, it was the other way round, I was too rigid, I didn’t take into account a hundred and one smaller things that are more crucial than all the rest. I was too logical and you were too sentimental.’”

Bullet points between pages 378 – 464

* Frederic is deeply involved with his mistress Rosanette and is taken aback when she announces that she is pregnant because he has since turned his attentions on wooing the banker’s wife Madame Dambreuse

* The political situation continues to change and Frederic again is given a brief chance of getting involved with politics but misses it because he does not move quickly enough and is criticised by friends who would have helped him

* Rosanette gets into financial difficulty and is on the brink of having her possessions sold but a friend steps into loan the money to pay her debts but the Arnoux family is not so lucky and they flee to Brittany to avoid creditors

* One of the creditors is Rosanette who breaks up any final chance that Frederic might have had of finding happiness with Madame Arnoux and then peruses her money which leads to the family fleeing

* Meanwhile Madame Dambreuse tumbles on Frederic’s love for Madame Arnoux and uses old debts to force a sale of her rival’s belongings and at the public auction Frederic decides to spurn the marriage that is on offer from her after her husband dies and settle for independence

* He has also cut ties with Rosanette after their son died and so heads back to the country to Louise but as he arrives in Nogent he watches her wedding to his old friend Deslauriers and heads back to Paris with nowhere to turn

* Then time passes and Frederic is described as leading a middle class life with a few lovers and Madame Arnoux appears for one final time but with white hair and the sings of age the talk of their love is in the past

* The final scene reunites the two old school friends and reveals that Arnoux has died and Rosanette has become fat and adopted a boy and some of the other characters have gone onto better things leaving the two friends to ponder where it was that they went wrong

A full review will follow in the next couple of days…

A Sentimenal Education – post VI

The book ends with everything being wrapped up and Frederic missing out on his dreams of finding true love but he ends with his childhood friend Deslauriers who has also missed out on what he wanted from life – power – and all of the loose ends are tied up.

At the risk of stealing some thunder from a full review there is a great quote that sort of sums up what the book has been about:

“They’d both been failures, the one who’d dreamed of Love and the one who’d dreamed of power. How had it come about?
‘Perhaps it was lack of perseverance?’ said Frederic.
‘For you maybe. For me, it was the other way round, I was too rigid, I didn’t take into account a hundred and one smaller things that are more crucial than all the rest. I was too logical and you were too sentimental.’”

Bullet points between pages 378 – 464

* Frederic is deeply involved with his mistress Rosanette and is taken aback when she announces that she is pregnant because he has since turned his attentions on wooing the banker’s wife Madame Dambreuse

* The political situation continues to change and Frederic again is given a brief chance of getting involved with politics but misses it because he does not move quickly enough and is criticised by friends who would have helped him

* Rosanette gets into financial difficulty and is on the brink of having her possessions sold but a friend steps into loan the money to pay her debts but the Arnoux family is not so lucky and they flee to Brittany to avoid creditors

* One of the creditors is Rosanette who breaks up any final chance that Frederic might have had of finding happiness with Madame Arnoux and then peruses her money which leads to the family fleeing

* Meanwhile Madame Dambreuse tumbles on Frederic’s love for Madame Arnoux and uses old debts to force a sale of her rival’s belongings and at the public auction Frederic decides to spurn the marriage that is on offer from her after her husband dies and settle for independence

* He has also cut ties with Rosanette after their son died and so heads back to the country to Louise but as he arrives in Nogent he watches her wedding to his old friend Deslauriers and heads back to Paris with nowhere to turn

* Then time passes and Frederic is described as leading a middle class life with a few lovers and Madame Arnoux appears for one final time but with white hair and the sings of age the talk of their love is in the past

* The final scene reunites the two old school friends and reveals that Arnoux has died and Rosanette has become fat and adopted a boy and some of the other characters have gone onto better things leaving the two friends to ponder where it was that they went wrong

A full review will follow in the next couple of days…

A Sentimental Education – post V

Although A Sentimental Education uses the backdrop of the 1848 French Revolution throughout the book it is only in the last stages that it erupts with fighting on the streets of Paris, the monarchy swept from power and Frederic and his connections changed by the shift of control to the people.

Thanks to the joys of the Internet finding out about the revolution is no problem and Wikipedia has the details but in terms of the influence on the characters it shows how allegiances can change rapidly when the political situation is so uncertain. Against that background Frederic is continuing to come under pressure to resolve his love life.

Bullet points between pages 310 – 378

* With fighting on the streets breaking out Frederic is drawn away from the bed of his mistress and heads out to see what is happening in Paris and meets old friends who are either fighting (Arnoux) or commentating on it (Hussonnet)

* On the urging of some friends Frederic considers putting his name forward for election and he goes to a meeting to get support but his decision not to provide the money to help his old friend Deslauriers comes back to haunt him and he is not accepted

* He decides to take his mistress Rosanette away from Paris and they head into the country and he feels, for want of anything to rival it, that this is a great love affair, but when he reads that fighting is continuing and when he discovers that Dussardier, another long standing friend has been wounded he heads back to the capital

* Once there he immerses himself with the cares of his injured friend but then it emerges he is hiding from Louise who has come up from the country with her father

* But he cannot hide from her forever and he meets her at a function at the Dambreuse home and also bumps into Madame Arnoux there and so is surrounded with those who love him and those who he loves

Who will win his heart? What will become of those wrapped up in the revolution? More tomorrow…

A Sentimental Education – post V

Although A Sentimental Education uses the backdrop of the 1848 French Revolution throughout the book it is only in the last stages that it erupts with fighting on the streets of Paris, the monarchy swept from power and Frederic and his connections changed by the shift of control to the people.

Thanks to the joys of the Internet finding out about the revolution is no problem and Wikipedia has the details but in terms of the influence on the characters it shows how allegiances can change rapidly when the political situation is so uncertain. Against that background Frederic is continuing to come under pressure to resolve his love life.

Bullet points between pages 310 – 378

* With fighting on the streets breaking out Frederic is drawn away from the bed of his mistress and heads out to see what is happening in Paris and meets old friends who are either fighting (Arnoux) or commentating on it (Hussonnet)

* On the urging of some friends Frederic considers putting his name forward for election and he goes to a meeting to get support but his decision not to provide the money to help his old friend Deslauriers comes back to haunt him and he is not accepted

* He decides to take his mistress Rosanette away from Paris and they head into the country and he feels, for want of anything to rival it, that this is a great love affair, but when he reads that fighting is continuing and when he discovers that Dussardier, another long standing friend has been wounded he heads back to the capital

* Once there he immerses himself with the cares of his injured friend but then it emerges he is hiding from Louise who has come up from the country with her father

* But he cannot hide from her forever and he meets her at a function at the Dambreuse home and also bumps into Madame Arnoux there and so is surrounded with those who love him and those who he loves

Who will win his heart? What will become of those wrapped up in the revolution? More tomorrow…