Friday, March 12, 2010

Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert

I fondly remember when I discovered Hesperus Press books.  I went to my local bookstore and poured over the shelves searching for the slim volumes.  Essentially, Hesperus press collects small literary gems -- fiction, short stories, plays, etc -- that are usually under 100 pages long, are often not widely found in the publishing world, and have wonderful introductions by authors such as Margaret Drabble, A.S. Byatt, Zadie Smith, and others.

Obviously I jumped at the chance to review a copy of a Hesperus Press book for the LibraryThing Early Reviewer's program.  The book I received is Gustave Flaubert's Three Tales with a foreword by Margaret Drabble.  The book contains three of Flaubert's short stories "A Simple Heart", "The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller", and "Herodias".  The first story is about servant who lives a lonely and thankless life with her parrot as her one source of joy, the second story is a cautionary tale about the consequences of blood lust, and the final tale is an interesting perspective on the beheading of John the Baptist.

When I began reading each story I noticed the starkness of the dialouge and descriptions.  Flaubert is a Realist -- life (no matter how seemingly exotic) is displayed with rawness and each sentence maintains a tension essential in painting a realist picture.  In fact, in going into each story I felt a bit cold, I wasn't truly drawn to any of the characters and I didn't think I would like the stories.  However the plot soon grasped me and I was surprised at how I wanted the stories to go on when they ended. 

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a finely crafted tale, lovers of religious tales, and those who appreciate a Realist perspective in literature. 


mel u said...

This book is a great second Flaubert-it will surprise people who see him simply as the ice cold Olympian who wrote Madame Bovary-very good post

Hannah Stoneham said...

Ths sounds very good and the press an interesting one. Have you read Flaubert's Parrot? You might enjoy that

Thanks for sharing