I know I have read Madame Bovary before, maybe even more than once, but it made ZERO impression. I did not love it, I did not hate it. Those days are gone.
My most recent first impression was that Flaubert was being paid by the word. Which turned out to be almost true: Madame Bovary was originally serialized; installments were printed at regular intervals for a set period of time. The author big-deal author who famously published this way was Charles Dickens, who happens to be another author I cannot stand.
In the spirit of bookclub, I have made an effort to find others who share my view of the book in question (as well as those who really really do not). What I have discovered is that no one does. Of all the criticisms I have seen of Madame Bovary, no one says it is boring (it is). If anything they find it too highly charged sexually (it is not).
This is hardly the first time I have found a book not what it ought to be. At least Madame Bovary is from a different century in a different culture & was written in another language. A lot can be explained by that alone & somehow this distance makes me less irritated (yet, still bored).
More recently we read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho which I found very hard to follow. With very few exceptions, there are no names, only pronouns & most of them are 'he'. Yes, I understand the device was supposed to make it universal but it left me asking which person was doing what. It took me weeks to get through less than 100 pages. I really do not think the stumbling block here was that it was originally written in Portuguese; I think even a child can translate third person pronouns with reasonable accuracy. I suppose it could have been a cultural thing that just did not click with me, except my simple confusion was the one of the better reviews the book got from our club.
Other books some of liked & others did not (we have never all liked a book, I don't think) include: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Ffordes & The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. The upcoming list, if you want to read along is:
November 2009: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
December 2009: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
January 2010: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
February 2010: Waiting by Ha Jin
March 2010: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard