Emma Bovary—one of literature's greatest dreamers and worst mothers—has been discussed and debated for centuries. But overlooked and often forgotten is her unloved, neglected and orphaned daughter. Now, in an epic tale of pluck and perseverance, a new novel released this week picks up at the end of Flaubert’s classic and asks, What happened to Emma Bovary's only daughter?
One year after her mother’s suicide and one day after her father dies of a broken heart, 12-year-old Berthe Bovary is sent to live on her grandmother’s impoverished farm. But fate--and determination--take her from the French countryside to the dangerous cotton mills of
to the glitz and glamour of Lille . There, as an apprentice to a renowned fashion designer, Berthe is ushered into the high society of which she once only dreamed. And yet she still yearns for the one thing her mother never had: the love of someone she loves in return. Paris
I haven’t read the book yet. But here’s what the publisher tells me: “A beguiling coming-of-age story and fascinating portrait of
in the mid-1800s, the book re-imagines Flaubert’s fictional creations through Berthe’s eyes and offers a new way of thinking about one of the greatest heroines of all time.” France
Booklist calls it “a lavishly textured sequel to a timeless literary Masterpiece.” Publisher’s Weekly says it’s “an entertaining romance for readers of historical fiction.”
Madame Bovary’s Daughter is Linda Urbach’s third book and it took her five years to write. Here's the back story, in her words:
“After graduating from college I knew I wanted to be a writer. (What else would I do with a degree in English Lit?) I thought the best place to do this was
. And the best way to do it was to find a garret and live the life of a starving artiste. I found a garret, or rather a furnished room without a bathroom on the Paris Left Bank, and proceeded to starve which seemed to take up all my writing time. What little time I had left over I spent trying to earn a few francs. I got a job teaching English-- I could barely speak French-- at Berlitz for five francs an hour. I lived this way for a year.
“Even though on the surface it seemed like a wonderful adventure for a 22 year old, it was pretty depressing. No one would talk to me so I did what I’ve always loved to do: I read. This was when I read Madame Bovary for the first time. And I remember thinking ‘poor Emma, poor Madame Bovary!’ She was trapped in a loveless marriage, in love with another man (make that two men), her husband was a bore, she craved another life, one which she could never afford and finally, tragically she committed suicide. It took her almost a week of agony to finally die from the poison she ingested.
“But 25 years later and as the adoptive mother of a very-cherished daughter, I re-read Madame Bovary. And now I had a different take away: What was this woman thinking? What kind of woman would continually cheat on her husband, ignore her only daughter, spend all her family’s money on a lavish wardrobe for herself and gifts for her man of the moment? What kind of mother was she? She barely acknowledged her child’s existence. How did Berthe manage to survive? Which is why is why I wrote this book. I wanted to make damn sure she not only survived but triumphed. I guess you could say I adopted Berthe Bovary as a sort of second child.”
Today Urbach lives in
, where she’s at work on her fourth book. When asked what she thinks Flaubert would say about her sequel, here’s what she had to say: “He was a craftsman. Every word was edged in gold. His Madame Bovary is often considered one of the two greatest novels ever written, second only to Anna Karenina. As a writer, I’m humbled by Flaubert’s genius. Honestly, I think he would hate it!” Connecticut
To order Madame Bovary’s Daughter on Amazon, click here. For more info, including photos, events and reading group guides, click here.