_Madame Bovary_ is more famous, but this book may be just as great -- even greater. Think of it as Flaubert's _Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man_, spiced with a dollop of _Cyrano_. Frederic Moreau prepares to study law in 1840 when, on a boat trip along the Seine, he glimpses the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. She is the wife of a philandering businessman, M. Arnoux. Through his studies, the coup of 1851, engagements and affairs with other women, Frederic befriends and quietly worships Mme. Arnoux. Flaubert wrote and rewrote this heavily autobiographical novel over several decades, and intended it to be a portrait of men (a study of masculinity, if you will) of his generation as well as of a time and place. Moreau starts out a blank slate, observing and reacting to events, but steadily engages life and grows into a full human being.
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The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus