Saturday, May 9, 2015

The three best--and the three worst--mothers in literature Culture tagged three of the best--and three of the worst--mothers in literature. One of the bad ones:
Emma Bovary, Madame Bovary

At the opposite end of the parenting spectrum, several characters drew your ire for ignoring their offspring. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Undine Spragg from Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country each received a mention for favouring adultery over nurture. Top of the self-centred matriarchs, however, is Gustave Flaubert’s Emma Bovary. The small town doctor’s wife who has a series of affairs has been dismissed as a bourgeois narcissist; yet many have come to her defence. The New Republic claimed: “If Emma Bovary were truly just a shallow woman who comes to a bad end, she could never have become the subject of what is arguably the greatest French novel of the nineteenth century, the novel that set the course for realism forever after.” Although that still doesn’t make her a good mother.
Read about the other mothers on the list.

Madame Bovary is on Alex Preston's top ten list of sex scenes from film, TV and literature, Rachel Holmes's top ten list of books on the struggle against gender-based inequality, Jill Boyd's list of six memorable marriage proposals in literature, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Jennifer Gilmore's list of the ten worst mothers in books, Amy Sohn's list of six favorite books, Sue Townsend's 6 best books list, Helena Frith Powell's list of ten of the best sexy French books, the Christian Science Monitor's list of six novels about grand passions, John Mullan's lists of ten landmark coach rides in literature, ten of the best cathedrals in literature, ten of the best balls in literature, ten of the best bad lawyers in literature, ten of the best lotharios in literature, and ten of the best bad doctors in fiction, Valerie Martin's list of six novels about doomed marriages, and Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers. It tops Peter Carey's list of the top ten works of literature and was second on a top ten works of literature list selected by leading writers from Britain, America and Australia in 2007. It is one of John Bowe's six favorite books on love.

--Marshal Zeringue