Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

Sentimental Education

Based on Flaubert’s own youthful passion for an older woman, Sentimental Education was described by its author as “the moral history of the men of my generation.” It follows the amorous adventures of Frederic Moreau, a law student who, returning home to Normandy from Paris, notices Mme Arnoux, a slender, dark woman several years older than himself. It is the beginning of a

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    Paul Bryant

    Sep 30, 2015

    rated it
    did not like it

    Shelves:
    abandoned,
    novels

    This one is often described as “the novel to end all novels” and I understand why – when you are reading it you say to yourself very frequently “if this is what novels are like I am never going to read another one in my entire life”.

    From about page 50 until when I stopped, I was having these strong bibliocidal fantasies. I thought – maybe I will leave this accidentally on the bus to work. But I forgot to forget it, like that country song. Then I thought – maybe a column of army ants will chomp

    From about page 50 until when I stopped, I was having these strong bibliocidal fantasies. I thought – maybe I will leave this accidentally on the bus to work. But I forgot to forget it, like that country song. Then I thought – maybe a column of army ants will chomp it up so that not a shred remains. But army ants are never seen in Nottingham, only the friendly variety who bid you good day as they pass by. I tried to donate my copy to Oxfam but the shop assistant, having turned very pale when she saw the title, summoned up a courage I had not thought her to possess and said they could not accept that particular title. When I asked why she referred me to the Oxfam standard operating procedures, something about health and safety, which includes of course mental health. They had accepted copies of Sentimental Education in previous years but there had been some incidents and now all shops had been explicitly warned not to.

    I see that many of my most respected GR friends hand out the big four and five stars to this novel and describe it as brilliantly comic. I was trembling in my boots until I found that none other than Henry James was on my side. Here is his considered opinion:

    Here the form and method are the same as in “Madame Bovary”; the studied skill, the science, the accumulation of material, are even more striking; but the book is in a single word a dead one. “Madame Bovary” was spontaneous and sincere; but to read its successor is, to the finer sense, like masticating ashes and sawdust. L’Education Sentimentale is elaborately and massively dreary. That a novel should have a certain charm seems to us the most rudimentary of principles, and there is no more charm in this laborious monument to a treacherous ideal than there is interest in a heap of gravel.

    However I did notice something what Henry James did not notice, and felt quite smug about that. It is this – that the main part of the plot of Sentimental Education is almost the same as the plot of Shampoo, the Warren Beattie movie from 1975, which I saw only last week so it was fresh in my memory. In Shampoo, hairdresser George’s former girlfriend Jackie now has a rich sugar daddy boyfriend Lester, whose wife Felicia is one of George’s best customers. Naturally George is shagging Felicia as it would seem unkind not to, and, because he keeps bumping into Jackie as they move in the same social circles, he realises he never wanted to break up with her so he starts shagging Jackie as well. Then comes the really shocking scene – Lester’s daughter who I guess is supposed to be around 16 or so comes on to George when he’s visiting Felicia. And she is played by none other than 19 year old Carrie Fisher, two years before Princess Leia. What a shock that was. So in Sentimental Education Frederic, the world’s most dreary young bachelor, wants to shag the wife of Monsieur Arnoux, a publisher. And eventually this guy introduces Frederic to his mistress Roseanne who he’s got fed up with, the idea being that Frederic will take her over, I suppose they used to do this in those days as they did not have Tinder. So Frederic is nearly shagging the guy’s wife and nearly shagging the guy’s mistress at the same time. Just like in Shampoo, except that George the hairdresser was a lot less dreary. Also in Shampoo and Sentimental Education there are these long long long boring party scenes where I think the effect is supposed to be scintillatingly socially satirical.

    I did not notice any specific Star Wars connections in Sentimental Education, but neither did Henry James.

    If I am ever taken hostage and this is the only reading material available in my rat infested dungeon then I will definitely finish this.

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