cover image GEMMA BOVERY


Posy Simmonds, . . Pantheon, $19.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42339-0

This clever, satirical graphic novel reimagines the Flaubert classic Madame Bovary through contemporary mores and attitudes. Simmonds's unique approach includes the usual panels and balloons, but also voluminous amounts of text on each page. The result is a graphic novel that reads like an actual novel. Simmonds tells the story through the eyes of Raymond Joubert, a baker in Normandy. Gemma herself is a complex character—an unsatisfied young woman who marries Charlie Bovery, a lumpish carpenter, out of apparent boredom, and then persuades him to move from London to a farmhouse in Normandy, to escape his clinging ex-wife and two children. Here, the rather unlikable Gemma begins to come into focus, her loneliness and isolation leading to her affair. Joubert, who mixes genuine concern with denial about his voyeurism, is convinced Gemma's headed down the same tragic path as Flaubert's original. Since we learn in the first paragraph that Gemma is dead, the question is who will be responsible for her demise. Simmonds's art recalls the elegance of New Yorker cartoonists mingled with the goth charm of Edward Gorey (Gemma herself is all restlessly darting pinpoint pupils). The perceptive writing is as revealing as the art, concisely capturing the monotony of Gemma and Charlie's life, the shallowness of London yuppie society and the moments of happiness that are doomed from the start. A hit in England, Gemma should hold equal charms for American readers. (Feb. 1)