Okay, this is a book that you can find plot summaries, historical references, and literary commentary all over the internet. Some kids were required to read it in school, some into minute detail (looking at you, Wardog). Its social significance and public reception are well documented. Here, have a Wikipedia page on the book.
Madame Bovary has been seen as a commentary on the folly of aspirations which can be never be realised, or a belief in the validity of a self-satisfied, deluded personal culture, termed 'bourgeois' and associated with Flaubert's period. For Vargas Llosa, 'Emma's drama is the gap between illusion and reality, the distance between desire and its fulfillment' and as such shows 'the first signs of alienation that a century later will take hold of men and women in industrial societies'. However, the novel is not simply about a woman's dreamy romanticism. While it is true that Emma is lost in delusions, Charles is also unable to grasp reality or to understand Emma's needs and desires.
As for reviewing the book's contents, I related to the book more than I was expecting to relate to it. I found Emma to be annoying and melodramatic in a large number of her actions, but the motivations, ugh, I understood too much. I rather wish I had read the book years ago. The translation I read was by Geoffrey Wall. I read a few parts by another translator, and kept coming back to Wall's translation. It worked well for me. It was engaging enough for me to be able to focus on it for more than 30 minutes on the treadmill without noticing the time go by, which seems to be my new measure of "good" in books.
I recommend reading this book.
That all said, what I do not recommend is the crap binding of the copy I read. I love books. This has been well established. I love physical books. The heft of them, the smell of them, the entire experience of them. I buy hardback books if I have the opportunity, because the experience of them is superior to trade paperback books, which is superior to paperback books. As a result, I bought a copy of Madame Bovary, or the "Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition" edition of the book.
Penguin Books and Random House should be completely embarrassed at publishing this binding. It was CRAP. Hardcover books should be stitched and open flat. This binding was a glued binding, a trade paperback with a hard cover. It is complete and total shit. It doesn't open well, doesn't stay open. The spine cracked. The printing appears to be from a laser printer. All of it was a disappointing experience.
This particular binding of this book, and all "of Penguin’s beautiful hardcover Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design" books should be removed from the shelves and burned in a great bonfire. They are crap.
I'm hoping to find a good hardback binding of Wall's translation. Something worth keeping on the shelf. My current copy is not.
I do not recommend the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition edition of this book.