Picking up after the shattering end of Gustave Flaubert’s classic, Madame Bovary, this beguiling novel imagines an answer to the question Whatever happened to Emma Bovary’s orphaned daughter?
One year after her mother’s suicide and just one day after her father’s brokenhearted demise, twelve-year-old Berthe Bovary is sent to live on her grandmother’s impoverished farm. Amid the beauty of the French countryside, Berthe models for the painter Jean-François Millet, but fate has more in store for her than a quiet life of simple pleasures. Berthe’s determination to rise above her mother’s scandalous past will take her from the dangerous cotton mills of Lille to a convent in Rouen to the wealth and glamour of nineteenth-century Paris. There, as an apprentice to famed fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth, Berthe is ushered into the high society of which she once only dreamed. But even as the praise for her couture gowns steadily rises, she still yearns for the one thing her mother never had: the love of someone she loves in return. Brilliantly integrating one of classic literature’s fictional creations with real historical figures, Madame Bovary’s Daughter is an uncommon coming-of-age tale, a splendid excursion through the rags and the riches of French fashion, and a sweeping novel of poverty and wealth, passion and revenge.
Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer rating: 3.5 stars
REVIEWED BY JILL:
Was any daughter ever cursed with a mother such as hers? A self-centered, social-climbing, materialistic, coldhearted, calculating adulteress. Oh, yes, and she disliked children, too.
In 1852, twelve year-old Berthe Bovary becomes an orphan upon the death of her father. Her mother having committed suicide by ingesting poison a year earlier, and her father dying from a broken heart. Based on the 1857 French classic Madame Bovary by Gaustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary’s Daughter tells the story of Berthe, daughter of Charles and Emma Bovary.
Perhaps because author Linda Urbach was trying to deliberately follow the tone ofMadame Bovary, this is a somewhat depressing and angst-filled story of a young girl trying to step out from the shadow of her notorious, egocentric and unlikable mother and make something of herself. It seems that every person Berthe meets is mean, abusive or exploitative. Maybe this is representative of the customs and times of mid-19th century France, and if it is then it was an extremely unpleasant time and place.
But this is a well-written novel. The historical details and the obvious research is excellent. Berthe herself is extremely likable and there is a happy, if somewhat subdued ending.