Emma Bovary, the main character in the 19th century French novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, was not exactly a maternal woman. She was not very interested in her only child, Berthe. One hundred fifty years later, readers finally get to find out what happened to the unfortunate little girl after her mother’s tragic ending. In Madame Bovary’s Daughter, Linda Urbach picks up where Madame Bovary left off, crafting the story of Berthe’s coming of age.
Despite the dismal early years of her life – living with parents much more interested in adult affairs than in anything having to do with her – Berthe manages to emerge from her childhood home as an optimistic orphan, especially considering the circumstances she finds herself facing. Madame Bovary’s Daughter follows Berthe from the small town in which she grew up with her parents, to a country farm life with her strict and poverty-stricken grandmother, to the deplorable conditions of working in a cotton mill, to an odd arrangement working as a maid in Paris, and finally to her eventual independence. There are love affairs, friendships, abuse and tragedy along the way as Berthe fights for a better life for herself.
With all the trials and tribulations that Berthe lives through, reading about her successes is extremely gratifying. From a young age, she begins to realize she has a great love of and interest in fabrics and fashions. Little by little, she learns more about her passion until she finds herself in the epicenter of Parisian fashion, working with a much sought after designer. Berthe becomes a career woman well ahead of her time, and, despite her difficult childhood, creates a happy life for herself.
Having read and enjoyed Madame Bovary years ago, I liked reading about Emma’s daughter, and finally knowing that she turned out alright after all.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bantam. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.