"Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert (1856)
"Her soul, tortured by pride, at length found refuge in Christian humility, and, tasting the joy of weakness, she saw within herself the destruction of her will, that must have left a wide entrance for the inroads of heavenly grace."
"Madame Bovary" is a story of infidelity. Emma, the young wife of a country doctor, seeks romance and excitement in the arms of other men. In so doing she plunges her family into ruin, and also burdens herself with a great many secrets.
I enjoyed this book, though in certain chapters the setting of scenes grows tiresome. It's also very depressing in parts, and the ending, while masterfully executed, isn't exactly cheerful. "Madame Bovary" touches upon issues of morality in way that is at once very French, very Victorian, and yet very modern. It is a book that had me thinking, and that's a good thing.
This book has been dismissed as "misogynistic" in some quarters, and critics go on to cite Flaubert's personal issues with sexuality as the reason for this perceived misogyny. Whatever Flaubert's issues with women (and with himself), I found no misogyny in this book, and I think that bringing Flaubert's personal failings into the argument does the novel a disservice. It's a good book, and it deserves to be read.