Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment and the consequences are devastating. Flaubert's erotically charged and psychologically acute portrayal of Emma Bovary caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857. It was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for his heroine; but Flaubert insisted: 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi'.
Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen in 1821. After illness interrupted a career in law, he retired to live with his widowed mother and devote himself to writing. His greatest works include Madame Bovary (1857), Sentimental Education (1857) and Bouvard et Pecuchet (1881). He achieved limited success in his own lifetime, but his fame and reputation grew steadily after his death in 1880. Geoffrey Wall is a literary biographer, translator and travel writer. His biography of Flaubert, published in 2001, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His translations of Flaubert for Penguin include Madame Bovary, Selected Letters, The Dictionary of Received Ideas, Sentimental Education and Three Tales. Michele Roberts is the half-English half-French writer of ten highly praised novels.