When Emma Rouault marries dull, provincial doctor Charles Bovary, her dreams of an elegant and passionate life crumble. She escapes into sentimental novels but finds her fantasies dashed by the tedium of her days. Motherhood proves to be a burden; religion is only a brief distraction. She spends lavishly and embarks on a series of disappointing affairs. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, Emma takes drastic action with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter.
When published in 1857, Madame Bovary was embraced by bourgeois women who claimed it spoke to the frustrations of their lives.
Flaubert's novel scandalized its readers when it was first published in 1857, and it remains unsurpassed in its unveiling of character and society.