Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach – Book Review

Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach
Published by Bantam, an imprint of Random House

Berthe Bovary is perhaps one of the most interesting characters in Madame Bovary, if only by the virtue of being one of the least developed. Finding herself a penniless orphan at the end of her parents’ story, Berthe goes off to her grandmother’s house and then to a workhouse, and then Flaubert feels no need to tell us anything else about her.

It is at this point that Linda Urbach picks up Berthe’s story, beginning with her moving to her grandmother Bovary’s house. Urbach balances the beginning of her story quite well, addressing both Berthe’s current situation and some of the background of her parents’ story. In fact, Berthe’s memories lend additional depth and meaning to moments of Emma’s story, such as the moment when Emma is effectively dumped by her first lover.

“Felicite gave Berthe one of the apricots to eat. Beautiful as it was to the eye, the flesh of the fruit was pulpy and strangely without flavor or sweetness.” -p. 108

Berthe is an engaging character, and her story is an interesting one. As a young woman finding her footing, it follows very well from her mother’s story that she would be attracted to the world of fashion, growing up surrounded by Emma Bovary’s beautiful clothing and then going to having nothing. Unfortunately, Madame Bovary’s Daughter suffered a bit from the at malady of historical fiction where the character becomes involved in every major advancement in his or her field.

“What followed was to be known thereafter as the world’s first fashion show. After much commotion, Worth’s models came out one by one, dressed in his most recent creations.” -p. 391

Of course, Berthe’s character is associated with this leader in the world of fashion at the time, but that doesn’t go quite far enough to explain just how influential she is claimed to be.

That historical fiction foible notwithstanding, Madame Bovary’s Daughter is a fun book that provides some much needed closure to Berthe’s story. Recommended.

Nicole and I had the opportunity to speak with Linda for our most recent episode\ of What’s Old is New, a show about Madame Bovary.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher for an episode of What’s Old is New.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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7 comments to Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach – Book Review

  • Pam

    Interesting! I haven’t read the original in a very long time. I’d have to revisit it before reading this one for sure.

    • I don’t think you would have to revisit, honestly (unless you’re looking for a good excuse to do so!). Urbach strikes a good balance between giving the background and not doing reciting things verbatim so as to bore people who’ve read the book recently.

  • I read Madame Bovary years ago, and the details are murky. I don’t remember Berthe at all, but even so this book really excites me! I definitely want to read it.

  • Very nice review — I too hate it when there’s too much Forrest Gump-ism in a novel. I’ve got this one on my TBR and will check out your podcast with the author — that sounds v interesting!

  • I am seeing positive reviews of this book. I will have to read it at some point, but not in a huge hurry.

  • I read Madame Bovary for the first time last year and was left wondering what happened to her daughter. It’s fascinating that someone wrote a follow up book.