This is sub-titled ""A Double Portrait"", which is misleading, as one expects an analysis of Madame Bovary, and gets something quite different. It is a detailed study, based on letters, diaries, etc. of Flaubert's evolution from the year 1845 to 1859, when Madame Bovary was published. At 23 Flaubert and his close friends were nauseatingly romantic -- more in theory than in practice, for with the exception of his off-again, on-again affair with Louise Colet, Flaubert was fairly celibate. His first literary efforts reveal an unrestrained desire for exotic scenes, violence, orgies of passion and emotion. A trip to the Orient with du Camp lessened this aspect of his character, and there followed long years of devotion to an ideal, Madame Bovary, who was really Flaubert himself, a ridiculous, hysterical bourgeois, subjected to merolless dissection, creating from the process a great work of art and the first truly realistic portrait of an era and a state of mind. The book is careful, solid, at times acute -- but there is little new revealed in its pages. The approach to the novel through the evolution of the man is new, perhaps -- but the facts have all been used before. However, there is not much in English available, so this should fill a niche.