Oh, I who adore Flaubert! how is it that I haven’t liked The Sentimental Education? We wish so much we loved everything that comes from the ones we love, do we?
The Sentimental Education is the journey of a young man — Frederic, the man of all weaknesses — and other men, who dreams of great love and life, but who deliberately spoils himself in sordid loves. Indeed, the woman he loves is married and their love is impossible. Without living like a monk, the young man, whom Flaubert describes as beautiful, and rather intelligent, could, even after going astray, even after making many errors, he could have done something good in his life but ... read the book!
Ok, maybe you won’t, so here’s what I thought of it:
First, the main character is a man, and right now, I’m a bit fed up with stories by men and on men. This said, him and his friends — men — were totally indifferent to me, because … well… why? Because even if the writing is perfect, the story excellent, the characters are who they are, but here’s what happens: the novel is cold; and this is because Flaubert absolutely didn’t want the reader to guess what he, the author, thought or felt about the characters he imagined. So the result is that me, reader, felt only indifference for the characters.
If you want to learn about the 1848 French Revolution, the troubled times up to the coup d'état of 1851, this novel is for you; historically, it’s very instructive, read it!
If you’re fed up with all those men doing war for what the call good reasons, men who are so naïve that they think that a Republic can make the world happy; men so rogues, wily, that they want to rule their country not for the happiness of its inhabitants, but for their own interest; men with so little conscience, that they tell their love to a woman and sleep with another one, out of interest; if you’re fed up with this ascertainment, don’t read it!
Finally, the characters I was most attached to, were the women; Flaubert, who’s always been curious about women’s secret lives, describes here four women totally different from each other, complex, just trying to deal with this men’s world and the role they’re told by them to play. So if you wish to read about 19th women characters, read it!
If you are not mentally strong enough to bear Flaubert's disillusionment about Men and pessimism, don’t read it!
If you’re an admirer of Flaubert’s culture, intelligence, kindness, read it!
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