I can’t believe it; I’m only reading two books at the moment. I’ll have to do something about that this week.
I’ve almost finished Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. My feeling on this one is that it is something Stephen King would have written 20 years ago. Would I have thought this if I didn’t know Stephen King was his father…….? I’ll never know. But, whilst I think it is ‘ok’ for the Genre I know that I would have really enjoyed it 20 years ago, maybe even five years ago – before I started book clubbing and expanded my reading. There’s nothing bad about this book, but I just don’t feel that the style is very original. I listened to 20th Century Ghosts first, and that was really good. I think that Joe Hill is probably the exponent of the unsettling short story, rather than the full blown novel. I’ll review this one for the Caffeine & Chapters July newsletter.
The other book I’m reading and have been reading since June is Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. When it was first published Flaubert was charged with writing an immoral novel, but now it is considered a classic.
I really love the French provincial setting, and apparently Flaubert deliberately identifies certain things within the area so only a true local would be able know where he was actually writing about.
Madam Bovary is the disillusioned wife of Charles Bovary, the local Officer of Health (basically an unqualified doctor). Charles is a bit rough around the edges, and Emma fancies that she belongs in Parisian Society. Emma begins her wanderings when she first develops a platonic relationship with Leon who lodges with the local pharmacist. Charles works hard within the community and Emma encourages him to take on more and more but when he tries to correct a club foot and the patient ends up losing his leg due to gangrene things take a downturn and debts begin to mount. In the meantime Emma has fallen for Rodolphe who is a bit of womaniser. Rodolphe leads Emma on to such an extent that she orders a cloak and travelling trunk and believes that she and her daughter will be running away with him to start a new life. Rodolphe wakes up to his coming ‘entrapment’ and literally ‘buggers off’.
When Emma receives her ‘Dear John’ letter, and finds that she has been left in the lurch she falls into a deep depression. Charles takes care of her thinking that she has a severe illness such as cancer, whilst juggling his debts, but Emma slowly recovers and begins to show an interest in her daughter again and her garden. After a suggestion by a friend that Charles should take Emma to the opera in Rouen, Charles bumps into Leon whilst getting drinks during the break. Leon joins them but Emma loses all interest in the opera and just wants to talk with Leon so they leave. They are currently at a café and Charles is encouraging Emma to stay another day so that she can see the opera all the way through to the end with Leon. Poor Charles, he’s so naïve.
A year or so ago one of my book club members had read Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes. He raved about this book and said it would be beneficial to read this before reading anything by Flaubert. Unfortunately I have not taken this advice, but I am really enjoying Madam Bovary and I will definitely read the Julian Barnes at some stage (I think it’s on the list, so I’ll have to!!)