Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris: The Story of a Friendship, a Novel, and a Terrible Year

Peter Brooks. Basic, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-0-465-09602-2
Brooks (Enigmas of Identity) has written an intricate examination of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Sentimental Education against the backdrop of what is known in France as “the terrible year”—summer 1870 through spring 1871—when the country suffered defeat by Prussia, followed by bloody internal strife. This multi-layered book is the perfect companion piece while reading Flaubert’s novel. Through intimate correspondence between Flaubert and author George Sands, Brooks explores how their personal struggles during a tragic time gives perspective on “what history will do to your life.” One intriguing detail here about Sentimental Education—published in 1869—is that Flaubert believed its plot anticipated the terrible year, remarking that, had the book been better received and understood, it might have helped avert France’s upheaval. In the midst of recounting momentous historical events, Brooks includes small but meaningful details of Flaubert and Sands’s relationship and Flaubert’s efforts to “reorganize his life at age 50.” Students of Flaubert—or of history—will enjoy exploring this book’s insights into one of the 19th century’s greatest writers. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/16/2017
Release date: 04/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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