I have a hard time enjoying books when I don’t like the protagonist. In Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel, I found the title character immature, incredibly selfish, and making so many stupid decisions. She was really irritating. Girlfriend needed someone in her life (a sister, a friend) to tell her, repeatedly, “Emma, your husband might be a bit of a dud, but stop acting like a teenager with an all-consuming crush on every boy who pays attention to you. Stop with the lovestruck idiocy and self-pity. Don’t be so materialistic. Learn to make yourself happy, develop some real interests, and go take care of your daughter!”
I suppose creating such an unlikable main character may have been a breakthrough in literature back in 1856, but I’ve never hoped so much for a character to meet her tragic end. The book is well-written and clever, and the subject matter was probably new and scandalous and noteworthy at the time it was first published. The social commentary and peripheral characters are interesting. In general, I can see Madame Bovary‘s value in the evolution of the novel, but it was honestly a rather annoying read.