The novel, with the subtitle Moeurs de province ("Provincial
Customs"), first appeared in installments in the Revue from October
1 to December 15, 1856. It ushered in a new age of realism in
literature. In Madame Bovary, Flaubert took a commonplace story of
adultery and made of it a book that has continued to be read
because of its profound humanity. Emma Bovary is a bored and
unhappy middle-class wife whose general dissatisfaction with life
leads her to act out her romantic fantasies and embark on an
ultimately disastrous love affair. She destroys her life by
embracing abstractions--passion, happiness--as concrete realities.
She ignores material reality itself, as symbolized by money, and is
inexorably drawn to financial ruin and suicide.