Bored and unhappy in a lifeless marriage, Emma Bovary yearns to escape from the dull circumstances of provincial life. Married to a simple-minded but indulgent country doctor, she takes one lover, then another, hastens her husband's financial ruin with her extravagance, and eventually commits suicide.
Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880) was brought to trial by the French government on the grounds of this novel's alleged immorality, but unlike his less fortunate contemporary, Baudelaire, he narrowly escaped conviction.
Flaubert's powerful and deeply moving examination of the moral degeneration of a middle-class Frenchwoman is universally regarded as one of the landmarks of 19th-century fiction. It is reproduced here, complete and unabridged, in the classic translation by Eleanor Marx-Aveling, daughter of Karl Marx.