Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris: The Story of a Friendship, a Novel, and a Terrible Year
Few novels seem to have taken as grand a goal as Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), who claimed that if it had been read it would have saved Paris the horrors of The Terrible Year of 1870-71. Also grand in scope is Flaubert’s attempt to capture the effects of history on people’s lives. Sentimental Education tells of the romances of Frederic Moreau despite the upheavals of the French Revolution of 1848. Moreau is, however, searching for love despite political turmoil and, like his contemporaries, not a pure soul.
Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris: The Story of a Friendship, a Novel, and a Terrible Year from Ivy League English Professor Peter Brooks tells many histories. There is the history of the Revolution of 1848, the Terrible Year, Flaubert’s career and novel Sentimental Education, and Flaubert’s literary friendships: mostly the one he had with writer George Sands. Brooks’s book is embedded in the history of Paris, France, and there are many references to literary artists and places that a general reader might not identify. The book is dense, but still profound and engaging. Flaubert accomplished some amazing things as a novelist, showing that writing could be realistic as well as artistic. He also rightfully challenged the morality of his days. Brooks reminds us of his accomplishments.