“Madame Bovary” (2014)–a Film Review

14 Jun
Madame Bavary (2014) film poster. Copyright: Aden Film, Aleph Motion Pictures, Left Field Ventures, Occupant Entertainment, Radiant Films International. See Wikipedia page for this image for fair use guidelines.

Madame Bovary (2014) film poster. Copyright: Aden Film, Aleph Motion Pictures, Left Field Ventures, Occupant Entertainment, Radiant Films International. See Wikipedia for fair use guidelines.

Madame Bovary (2014), a film by Sophie Barthes, stars Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary, the iconic woman created by Flaubert in his 1857 novel. Wasikowska’s name has appeared on this blog before, when she excelled in two other roles based on Fictional 100 characters: Jane Eyre and Alice in Wonderland. A little older now, she succeeds once again in embodying the unhappily married Madame Bovary.

As in Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre film, this film opens with a scene of Wasikowska running outdoors, in desperate flight from something. Both films then proceed to tell their stories in flashback. Wasikowska can certainly fill the screen with her resolute quiet; whereas as Jane Eyre this denoted her discretion and strongly principled character, as Emma Bovary, her quiet masks her restless, troubled inner life and her felt need for growing deceptions.  The first changes, though, are not hidden but very visible in her acquisition–on credit–of new stylish clothes for herself and furnishings for the house she shares with her benign, country-doctor husband Charles. At first, she rebuffed the insinuating offers of Monsier Lheureux (l’heureux means “the happy one”), who tempted her to borrow from him for his expensive goods; his success at leading her into debt represents her first seduction.  The romantic affairs that will follow, with “The Marquis” and Léon, are an outgrowth of this first fall from innocence.  She craves the romance of luxury and love, hoping to replace the emptiness and disappointment she found in the stifling constriction of Yonville and her confining marriage. She can hardly breathe, and so her restraint and quiet demeanor break open, becoming in the end a frantic rush to destruction.

This film departs markedly from previous films and especially from Flaubert’s novel. Several crucial elements are missing:

  • Berthe, the child of Emma and Charles, does not appear here. There is no mention of her having a child at all. In the novel, this fact serves to underline another area of life in which Emma could find no satisfaction. Flaubert’s Emma was unable to love or bond with her small daughter, a further wound to her marriage, which made her susceptible to falling in love with other men that crossed her path. Emma’s tragic ending is also more poignant because of the daughter she leaves behind.
  • Rodolphe Boulanger is subsumed in the character of the Marquis d’Andervilliers who gives a ball early in the novel. It made more sense in the novel that farming landowner Rodolphe would be speaking (and flirting) with Emma at an agricultural fair.
  • Likewise, the village of Tostes and the town of Yonville are merged. This misses that Charles was sensitive enough to Emma’s unhappiness to move to a larger, albeit still rural, setting for their life together.  However, it is understandable that the screenplay for a two-hour film must make these kinds of abbreviations of plot.
  • In Rouen, Emma and Léon rendezvous in the Cathedral and take a carriage to a room to make love; however, this director chose not to show us one of the novel’s most famous scenes: in which the couple make love in the closed carriage itself, as it circles around the city; Flaubert brilliantly suggests the passionate embraces inside by the sole detail of Emma’s ungloved hand in the window of the jostling carriage.
  • The pharmacist Monsieur Homais’s character and behavior is sketched so roughly that viewers may not understand that he is in competition with the new doctor in town for patients, which motivates his insistence that Charles attempt a risky operation on a local boy. He is friend to neither Charles nor Emma.
  • Finally, this film chooses to have Emma die alone in the forest after she has taken poison, thereby missing some of the most important scenes in the novel, and the only ones that hint at any rapprochement of the couple and a sort of redemption, in the midst of tragedy.  In Flaubert’s treatment, Emma ingests a fatal dose of arsenic but takes several days to succumb, during which time she tries to comfort Charles, realizing perhaps the depth of his essential goodness and true love for her. “You’re good, not like the others,” she says to him.

Since I have listed elements I found missing in this adaptation, let me finish out this review by praising an aspect of the film that I found illuminating and symbolically satisfying. Twice, Emma goes to the local priest in his church in Yonville, hoping for some sort of guidance and comfort–neither of which she finds.  The first time was especially telling: all the while she is trying to talk to him, a group of unruly children are running in the small sanctuary and the priest interrupts her to reprimand them. After he offers a few, insufficient words urging her to be happy with the roof over her head and food (and a good fellow for a husband), he sends her away, excusing himself to “get these very devils ready for Communion.”  Right in front of him was a troubled young woman, being assailed by devils of her own, tempted by the Devil himself (in the form of Lheureux) and her own passions, and he couldn’t see it. She was the one who needed some real communion with grace–a compassionate confessor and some wise words of faith to strengthen her–and this priest had little to give her.  If only she could have encountered a Monsieur Myriel such as appeared in the path of Jean Valjean at exactly the time when he needed him!  In Emma, Flaubert portrayed some of the cracks that were appearing in traditional faith during the 19th century. His villain Homais was an atheist, and it would take more than good will and going through the motions of religion to stand up to the spiritual crisis of the people at that time (or any time!).  Sophie Barthes handles these scenes between the priest and Emma with illuminating clarity for the audience, although Emma is left to plunge into her own darkness without any supports to grasp.

I recommend the film for Mia Wasikowska’s genuine portrayal of Emma and Rhys Ifan’s scary take on Lheureux. He recently played a secretive, but loyal Mycroft Holmes in the Elementary series for TV, but he is truly sinister here. The film is visually beautiful, punctuated by Emma’s stunning costumes, many of them in a fiery orange.

Children’s Book Week Giveaway Hop–And the Winner Is…!

11 May

Children's Book Week Giveaway Hope Banner 2015

I’m happy to announce that Hope C., who blogs at HopeToRead.com, is the winner of two lovely illustrated books, Pinocchio and Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales.  I see that Hope’s blog features many Book Tours and Giveaways, so do stop by!  Thanks to everyone who entered and participated in this event to celebrate kids and reading (perfect together!).

Children’s Book Week Giveaway Hop–Giving Away Two Illustrated Books!

3 May

Children's Book Week Giveaway Hope Banner 2015For Children’s Book Week, I’m delighted to participate in the Children’s Book Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings.  I’m giving away BRAND NEW paperback copies of two illustrated books I’ve reviewed previously here at The Fictional 100 (each title is linked to my review):

Both books seem to me to be perfect for all ages.  School Library Journal suggests Grades 1 to 5 for Nelson Mandela’s folktales. These books have gorgeous, innovative illustrations enhancing the delightful texts.  I am giving away one gift package containing both books. Follow the instructions on the giveaway link below, which will be open May 4 to May 10 for entrants from the US or Canada.


I will notify the winner by email on May 11th. Please respond within 48 hours, if possible, so that I can send you your books! Thanks for entering and supporting Children’s Book Week! I thank Sharon at Faith Hope & Cherrytea for letting me know about the Giveaway Hop.

Please CLICK the blue linky button to visit the other participating blogs offering more great giveaways, and have fun sharing books with children!

My First Dewey Readathon + Spring Into Horror! = Lots of Reading!

24 Apr

Beautiful Dewey’s Readathon button, created by Michelle of The True Book Addict, who always finds terrific pictures of women reading!

In celebration of the good side of peer pressure, I’ve just signed up for my first Dewey’s Readathon! I will be doing this in tandem with Michelle’s Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon, which is already underway this week and ending Sunday night (in the US).

Spring into Horror Read-a-thon

This is also created by Michelle, for her blog Seasons of Reading, where she hosts her seasonal Read-a-thons.

I have already described my Read-a-thon reading list, which includes Dan Simmons’ new take on Sherlock Holmes, The Fifth Heart, as well as the original stories of the Brothers Grimm.  I will probably add some Outlander, specifically Book 2, Dragonfly in Amber, and I know I’ll be taking a break in the evening to watch the next installment of the “Outlander” series on STARZ! :)  I’m looking forward to visiting blogs and checking in with folks all day on Twitter (@Fictional100)!

Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon 2015: What I’m Reading

15 Apr

Spring into Horror Read-a-thon

Time for daffodils, tulips, and scary reading!  My selections for this year’s Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon are not primarily horror, but they do have their scary or mysterious elements. I am happy that Michelle makes her Seasons of Reading event flexible enough to welcome those who wish to read only around the edges of the horror genre. For this one, I’ve selected some books that may scare the wits out of me yet! We’ll see.

Today is April 15; not only is that tax filing day in the U.S., but it is also the birthday of novelist Henry James (he would be 172).  The Fifth Heart, Dan Simmon’s new literary mystery (just released in March), finds Henry James teaming up with Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death of Clover Adams, the wife of writer Henry Adams. Their pairing is complicated by the existential crisis of Holmes who has deduced that he is a fictional character!

Fifth Heart cover

Another Dan Simmons novel, Drood, has been on my mental list for a while, since it combines biographical fiction about Charles Dickens with speculation about the intended ending of his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, whose horrible aspects are magnified by the lack of resolution.  This week I will continue reading A Tale of Two Cities, our Dickens selection for the TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs group at Goodreads.  Although it certainly has much sweetness in the relationship between Doctor Manette and his daughter Lucie, the Reign of Terror, which readers know will follow the French Revolution and endanger noble-hearted nobleman Charles Darney, casts an eerie shadow over the whole story.

Finally, I am reading The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Editiion, translated and edited by noted fairy-tale specialist Jack Zipes.  This illustrated collection brings together English translations of all the stories from the Grimms’ 1812 and 1815 first editions.  Zipes emphasizes that these versions are closer to the originals that the brothers recorded from traditional storytellers. They tend to be shorter, more clipped in style, and faithful to the scarier aspects of many of the tales. The illustrations by Andrea Dezsö are interesting: they are black-and-white and give the impression of being simple woodcuts (or paper cutouts), but their content and arrangement of elements looks impressionistic and modern. They are also reminiscent of Arthur Rackham’s silhouette illustration technique, such as he used for Cinderella, or “Aschenputtel” in the Grimms’ tales.

Original Brothers Grimm cover

Sign-ups for the Read-a-thon continue all week, until Friday (see Guidelines), and you don’t have to have a blog. You can join from Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter!  Look for discussion with hashtag #SpringHorrorRAT to find out what everyone is reading and to join the scheduled chat.  Only one scary or mysterious book needs to be on your reading menu for the week; whatever else you are reading is fine too.

Review + Giveaway: “The Rocheforts” by Christian Laborie

7 Apr

Rocheforts banner

My Review

I found The Rocheforts to be an enthralling family saga, one which kept me intensely engaged from its dramatic Prologue, set in 1898, to its Epilogue, thirty-two years later.  Although this is Christian Laborie’s first novel to appear in English, I was not surprised to learn that he is an accomplished author of many other novels, a total of 16 books to date, two of which have won prizes for regional fiction related to the area he has made his home, the Cévennes, a mountainous region in the southeast corner of the Massif Central.  It must have a special attraction for authors: Robert Louis Stevenson traveled there in 1878 and then published a famous memoir about his trip, Travels with a Donkey in the CévennesMuch of The Rocheforts takes place in Tornac (near Anduze, we are told) in the Gard department, within sight of the Cévennes mountains. This is the home of the Rouvières, a family of prosperous farmers who raise sheep and maintain vineyards on their fertile land holdings. The other main locus of the action is Nîmes, capital of Gard and a major city in the Languedoc-Rousillon region, noted for its Roman ruins and long history and, in this novel, for its wonderful sturdy cloth, the “serge de Nîmes” commonly called denim. Anselme Rochefort and his family has long maintained a thriving textile business in the region, first, in silk made from their own silkworms fed on mulberry trees they grew themselves, and then, thanks to the shrewd management of Anselme’s father, who moved the factories to Nîmes, in denim which they sold to Levi Strauss in America. The Rocheforts live in the city but often spend time at their country home, Clos du Tournel, which made them neighbors of the Rouvières.

It soon becomes clear that this book is really the saga of two families, whose lives become so entangled that their histories cannot be told separately. However, I believe it would be most helpful to readers for me to introduce the members of each family, who are the chief characters of the novel.  It is to Laborie’s credit as a writer and an observer of people that he makes each family member distinctly memorable.

The Rocheforts:

  • Anselme–Shrewd and unswerving in his calculations, whether to advance his business interests or dominate his family, Anselme is a formidable patriarch. He inherits much wealth, adds to it by two advantageous marriages, and wishes to hold absolute sway over his children especially. Events flow from this determination of his to control, even when that control is thwarted–at great cost to those closest to him.
  • Eleanor–Anselme’s first wife and mother of his eldest daughter, Catherine. Already suffering from depression when she wed, Eleanor’s life proved to be as short as it was unhappy.
  • Elisabeth–Anselme’s second wife, who raised Catherine as her own and had two more daughters and two sons with him. She showed herself a capable mother and loyal wife, despite Anselme’s often cold and dismissive disposition; devoutly religious, she was sincerely involved in many charitable activities, befitting the role of a society wife.  Aware of her high social station, she was slow to form close bonds with the Rouvières, but she was not as implacable as her husband, and grew to value and respect them.
  • Catherine–The Rocheforts’ oldest daughter is the focus of family secrets. When we meet the family, they are already in mourning for her at her funeral.
  • Elodie–Being deeply attached to her older sister, Elodie suffers from persistent grief over Catherine’s death and suspicion about its circumstances. Her health declines but readers should not count her out of the drama because of her frailty.
  • Jean-Christophe–The “good son” who apparently follows his father’s wishes, Jean Christophe shares his father’s harsh political views, and agrees to devote his life to the family business. Unfortunately, he has too little of his father’s keen judgment and too much disregard for the consequences of his actions.  The extent of his double-dealing and immorality will surprise even his father, and point the family toward disaster.
  • Sebastien–The rebellious son, Sebastien is the one who feels as though he landed in the wrong family. He has no taste for wealth or luxury, develops early concern for the plight of workers, and wishes for nothing but the independence to conduct his own life without interference from his father. His childhood and youth are a constant tug-of-war with Anselme.  An idealist in many ways, he nevertheless manifests a thoughtless streak that ends up hurting others.
  • Faustine–The pampered youngest child, Faustine is perhaps the only Rochefort child who is warmly loved, and willingly indulged, by Anselme.  She is beautiful, confident, intelligent, and the least troubled of her siblings. Yet this will not protect her from hurtling toward terrible heartache.

The Rouvières:

  • Donatien–The Rouvière patriarch is a loving family man, father of three daughters and one adopted son. He wisely manages and tirelessly works his extensive farms, called La Fenouillère, and his honest dealings have made him respected in the region.  He is on good terms with his neighbors including the powerful Rocheforts, a position which allows him to incur privileges, such as summer pasturing of his sheep on Rochefort land in Lozère. In turn, he harvests the grapes from the Rochefort vineyards and is able to keep (and sell) half their yield. But despite his obvious success, social disparity is enough to put him at a disadvantage when Anselme Rochefort wishes to contract a marriage between his oldest son Jean-Christophe and Donatien’s eldest daughter, Louise.
  • Constance–Donatien married for love, and his wife Constance is a partner in their family and even in some of the farm labor, such as the grape harvest, where the whole family must pitch in.  She is warmly understanding and solicitous of her children, but finds herself somewhat intimidated at first by the closer connections established with the wealthier Rouvières.
  • Louise–The Rouvières’ eldest daughter accepts an arranged marriage with Jean-Christophe Rochefort very early in the book.  She brings to the marriage an impressive dowry, the groves of mulberry trees which Anselme covets to feed his silkworms. Louise and Jean-Christophe have a large family of their own, and she becomes an influential figure in the story for both her siblings and her in-laws.
  • Julie–The second Rouvière daughter has a bad case of middle-child syndrome, since she feels ignored and uncomfortable with the expectations placed on her. She will also become entangled with one of the Rochefort men.
  • Aline–Youngest daughter Aline is bright and wishes to be a teacher. Her ready admiration for her adopted brother Vincent becomes unrequited love as they grow older.
  • Vincent–Vincent Janvier spends his early childhood years at the Sisters of Charity orphanage in Nîmes, until he is adopted by Donatien and Constance Rouvière. He quickly loves all the duties of farm life and forms strong bonds with his new family. The Rocheforts are slower to acknowledge his status as Donatien’s fully fledged son and sometimes fail to recognize his importance, with the significant exception of young Faustine. She and Vincent fall in love “at first sight” as children, and their forbidden romance is pivotal throughout the novel.

These families will experience the repercussions of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the post-war period up through the financial crash of 1929.  We see the changing fortunes of the Rocheforts’ textile company, the effects of shifting markets and supplier competition in the denim industry, and the crisis of an aging industrial magnate trying to pass on his business and ensure his family legacy. The threats of family disunity and financial disintegration are never far away, and in this respect, the novel belongs to a class of novels exemplified by Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901), the story of a north German family’s decline over four generations.  Younger generations who succeed a great founder of a business empire tend to have different talents and different aspirations, and they are adversely affected morally by the very wealth their illustrious forebear has created for them.  Critic Ian Sansom called this the “Buddenbrooks effect” in his last piece for The Guardian in 2011.  It is equally the “Rochefort effect” in Christian Laborie’s compelling portrait of two French families at the beginning of the twentieth century.


Rocheforts cover

Author Christian Laborie

on Tour

April 6-15, 2015


The Rocheforts

(fiction / saga)

Release date: May 5, 2015 at Open Road Integrated Media

484 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4804-6120-8



Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal.
Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business.

The Rocheforts’ neighbor Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own.

When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter.

With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land. [provided by the publisher]


Rocheforts - LaborieABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Laborie was born in the North of France, but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes for more than twenty years.

The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English.

Follow Open Road Integrated Media on Facebook |   Twitter

Subscribe to Open Road’s Newsletter

Buy the bookAmazon


You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook;
they are listed in the entry form below


Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open internationally:
5 winners will receive 1 digital copy of The Rocheforts




Rocheforts banner

*Note*: I received an electronic copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.  I did not receive any other compensation, and the views expressed in my review are my own opinions. 

Related links:


My Guest Post at Mom’s Small Victories

27 Mar

I offer my warmest thanks to Tanya M. for inviting me to Be Her Guest this week at her delightful blog, Mom’s Small Victories, where she posts positive blogging tips, reviews, recipes, reading events, and great ideas for living abundantly, despite chronic pain. She likes to team up with other bloggers and make her blog a meeting place for regular linkups, such as the Small Victories Sunday Linkup, perfect for finding something fun and helpful to read all week.

For my guest post, I wrote about 6 Ways That Social Media Stretch My Soul.  Please head on over and leave a comment about your own relationship (totally on board? love/hate? sometimes skittish?) with social media.   Thanks.

6 ways social media stretch my soul by Lucy from Fictional 100

A Winter’s Respite Read-A-Thon 2015: What Did I Read?

3 Feb

Winter's Respite Readathon 2015

I joined Michelle at Seasons of Reading and many friends for A Winter’s Respite Read-a-thon. I did get some reading done, mostly on the weekends. I’m usually snatching a chapter here and there, so it was nice to have a good reason to put aside my other “to-do’s” and just stay put and read.  I said to myself, “I could do that {laundry, writing, other work}, but hey, I’M ON A READ-A-THON; I think I’ll just sit here…” Among those I planned to read, I finished two books (one a monumental story of a family’s cultural education and transformation in the Congo, the other a historical romance of a French seamstress at the court of Imperial Russia):

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  2. To Dream of Snow by Rosalind Laker

And I started two others:

  1. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  2. Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

I also started The Grip of God by Rebecca Hazell, the first book in her trilogy called “The Tiger and the Dove.”  I won this book in Michelle’s High Summer Read-a-thon in July–it’s about time for me to get into this dramatic historical novel set in Eastern Europe and Asia during the 13th century. I am especially interested in the way the clash of spiritual traditions seems to play a key role in the story.

The Grip of God cover

Since more snow and ice seems to be on the way every few days here for a while, more reading time may be in the forecast!  I’m grateful for this Read-a-thon and the camaraderie of delightful book-lovers; check out Seasons of Reading to see what seasonal reading events are coming up.



A Winter’s Respite Read-A-Thon: Reading as the Flakes Fall

26 Jan

Winter's Respite Readathon 2015With a blizzard on the way here in the northeast U.S., my respite from winter will indeed be in the form of cozy reading, with a fleece blanket in my lap and a cup of tea or coffee within easy reach! Here’s hoping the power stays on!  And that everyone has shelter and stays safe.

I’m happy to join Michelle at Seasons of Reading and many friends for A Winter’s Respite Read-a-thon. Here are some choices I’m lining up for the week:

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver — finishing this one up for Travel the World in Books Readalong Twitter chat on Wed., Jan 28.
  2. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery — a heartwarming story to take the chill off!
  3. To Dream of Snow by Rosalind Laker — French embroiderer Marguerite travels to Russia to the royal court of Empress Elisabeth to sew for her and her remarkable daughter-in-law, Catherine.
  4. Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd — for March’s Lit Collective reading retreat on Venice
  5. Stone Virgin by Barry Unsworth — also for Lit Collective theme
  6. Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen — historical romance by an author new to me

2015 Reading Challenges–French Bingo and more

21 Jan

french-bingo-2015-logo2I’m delighted to join this reading challenge for 2015, hosted by Emma at Words and Peace. Here are some of the books I may include:

  1. Journeys Through France and Life by Glenda de Vaney (my review)
  2. To Dance with Kings by Rosalind Laker (set in court of Louis XIV)
  3. The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones (about Héloïse and Abélard)
  4. How Paris Became Paris by Joan De Jean
  5. The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexander Dumas (in the Musketeer series)
  6. Lev Gillet: ‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’ by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel

I’ll most likely add others during the year, especially as part of France Book Tours. I will post those reviews here on the Fictional 100 blog. Other brief reviews will appear on my Goodreads shelf.

Many of these books will also qualify for two challenges posted by The Introverted Reader: the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge and the 2015 Books in Translation Reading Challenge.

Finally, these varied books on France, past and present, fiction and nonfiction, are also part of my ongoing participation in the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, hosted by Mom’s Small Victories, I’m Lost in Books, and Savvy Working Gal.

Travel-the-World-in-Books-Reading-Challenge 300x300

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