Review: Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach
Publisher: Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 482 (excluding special features)
Age recommendation: 17+
Berthe Bovary was left an orphan at the age of 12 after the suicide of her mother, a scandal-ridden woman, and the brokenhearted demise of her father, the cuckolded husband. She is sent to live with her grandmother where she learned how to perform household and farm tasks and modeled for the famous painter Jean-Francois Millet. After the death of her grandmother, she worked in a cotton mill and in a change of fortune, becomes a lady’s maid to the owner of the cotton mill. Her passion for beautiful gown designs leads her to become an apprentice of the famous fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth. Although Berthe is having the job and the money she always dreamed of, she still lacks one thing: love and family.
I must say that Madame Bovary’s Daughter isn’t a book I would read if it had contained a content warning. I had the “uh oh” and “what have I gotten myself into” moments when I was more than a halfway through the novel. But reading this novel has piqued my interest about Emma Bovary although I have never read the famous and controversial 19th century novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. How can a mother be so trapped with crafting a world of fantasy that she was out of touch with the real world?
Madame Bovary’s Daughter does not have a lack of unconventional characters. We have a thief, rapist, master of the house who has a hobby of wearing women’s dresses, and mistress of the house who is a bisexual. The way they are different does not really make them endearing characters (with the exception of the thief, I couldn’t like the other characters), but they do add color to the plot. It is rare to find a novel with nearly all supporting characters who are this “unusual”. I guess this tells a lot about 19th century France.
Berthe Bovary is an interesting main character. Although this novel is set in the 19th century, she sounds like a modern character. Her independence as a woman is unusual for woman living during that time period. Still, her character personalities makes her a character easy to like. Orphaned at a young age and forced to work in less than ideal working environments/conditions, she remains strong and optimistic. It is wonderful that Linda Urbach gives readers a chance to view the world from Berthe’s point of view since the novel by Flaubert focuses on Berthe’s mother.
I was fascinated by the descriptions of dress designs. Dress designers are very much artists just as painters are. Dresses in 19th century France is different from dresses nowadays. While dresses nowadays have simple designs, the dresses in 19th century France featured more dramatic designs that were eye-catching. Urbach describes the dresses well; readers are able to vividly imagine the dress designs.
The ending of Madame Bovary’s Daughter left much to be desired. I thought that it was too rush. The ending left blanks and questions for me. After reading more than 400 pages, I had expected a better ending. It definitely could have been better and more satisfying, but sometimes it is up to readers to fill in the blanks using their imaginations!
Linda Urbach is a published book author, award winning advertising copywriter, and scriptwriter. Her first novel, Expecting Miracles, was published under the name Linda U. Howard by Putnam. Putnam also published Linda’s second novel, The Money Honey. Linda co-authored the scripts of Fashionista and The Secret Diary of Sigmund Freud which was produced by 20th Century Fox Specialized Film Division. She is currently working on her next novel, Sarah’s Hair. Visit www.madamebovarysdaughter.com to learn more about Linda and her novel, Madame Bovary’s Daughter.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”