From the author of the acclaimed Zola: A Life, another magnificent portrait of a writer and his age.
Gustave Flaubert, whose Madame Bovary outraged France's right-thinking bourgeoisie when it was first published in 1857, is brought to life in Frederick Brown's new biography in all his singularity and brilliance. Frederick Brown's portrayal is of an artist fraught with contradictions - his wit and bravado coexisting with great vulnerability.
A sedentary man by nature, Flaubert undertook epic voyages through Egypt and the Middle East. He could be flamboyantly uncouth, but was fanatically devoted to a beautifully cadenced prose. While energized by his camaraderie with male friends, such as Turgenev, the Goncourt brothers, Zola and Maupassant, he depended for emotional nurturing upon maternal women, most notably George Sand.
Nineteenth-century France literally put Flaubert on trial for portraying 'lewd behaviour' in Madame Bovary. But it also made him a celebrity and, indirectly, brought about his financial ruin, probably hastening his sudden death at the age of fifty-nine. Although writing was something like torture for him, it preoccupied his mind and dominated his life. He privately dreamed of popular success, which he achieved with Madame Bovary, but adamantly refused to sacrifice to it his ideal of artistic integrity.
Of Flaubert's life, his inner world, his times and his legacy, Frederick Brown's magisterial biography is a revelation. It was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize for biography and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
“Magnificent... Brown's biography will clearly be the Life for this generation”
James Wood, Scotsman
“Frederick Brown, as might be expected of the biographer of Zola, is at his strongest when dealing with the social and political background to Flaubert's life...This is the biography which will best help us to understand Flaubert's reactions to the ceaseless political turmoil of his life”
Julian Barnes, New York Review of Books
“Very rewarding... few men have been more truly extraordinary than Flaubert, to whom Brown takes us as close as it is possible to be other than in the flesh... The best biographies are fine books, and this is one of the very best. It leaves the reader with a whole world to think about and an enlivened mind with which to do the thinking”
“Wonderfully rich and enjoyable”
“Brown's book will win Flaubert many new or returning readers... Funny, racy, gossipy and erudite by turns.”
“This massive and authoritative biography... There is...something aptly Flaubertian about Brown's approach... an abundance of larger-than-life detail”
Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday
“Sympathetic, well-informed, but never intrusive...Flaubert is a superb biography, not least because it gives us the portrait of a man embedded in his country and his age even as he rebels against its values and mores. Brown is masterly at drawing the background to his subject, social and political, writing with authority and an eye for the telling detail that compel fascination as well as respect.”
Caroline Moore, Spectator
“In Frederick Brown's capacious, compelling new biography, the immense paradoxes of Flaubert's life and his working methods are brilliantly rendered... This is a brilliant read - and one which wears its sizeable erudition lightly; which finds dramatic tension and emotional scope in the interior life (and pernickety working methods) of a frequently closed-off man, while also presenting us with a great panoramic portrait of the shifting political and social currents of the France he inhabited.”
Douglas Kennedy, The Times