Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
Gemma Bovery - Posy Simmonds I'm on a graphic novel run of late, and picked up Posy Simmonds' Gemma Bovery, an updated version of Flaubert's classic Madame Bovary, told in the modern age.::: The Plot :::Gemma Bovery and her husband Charlie moved to the French countryside and became the neighbors of the village baker (and sometimes writer) Joubert. Through Joubert's obession with the English couple, we learn of her adult life, which seems to have begun with a broken relationship with a narcissistic food critic and led to her falling into marriage with the emotional recluse Charlie, a "restorer."Gemma hopes that by escaping London, where she's frustrated with life on the never-get-ahead treadmill as well as Charlie's manipulative ex-wife, she'll get a fresh start and live a simpler existence that will somehow combat her malaise.The book is told mainly through flashbacks via Joubert's point of view, relying on his interactions with her and her journals.::: Execution :::Gemma Bovery is easily followed, even by those who have never read Madame Bovary, in my estimation. Much is made by Joubert of the similarities (Emma/Gemma, Charles/Charlie, as well as Gemma's affairs and eventual debt), and the black and white illustrations give even more depth to the story, depicting locations and character details without relying on text for description.The graphic novel is laid out differently than your typical graphic novel; instead of relying on comic-book format, the drawings are all over the page, with text interspersed around it. Some of the story is outright narration, some told within the drawings themselves, and some is "handwritten" from Gemma's journals.For the most part, the drawings are invaluable, providing tiny details that draw the reader in. However, Simmonds relies on a great deal of French dialogue, only some of which is translated, and becomes frustrating for the reader who speaks no French. I can assume she felt translations for those bits of dialogue wasn't necessary to the story, but if you don't know French, you are unable to make that judgment for yourself.As for the story itself, it updates a classic story without use of zombies or androids (like the current trend of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Android Karenina). Where it falls flat, however, is its over-reliance on referring back to the original text via the obsessive fortune-telling of Joubert based on the plot of a novel. Gemma Bovery could have been much improved had it updated the plotline with subtle hints back to the original instead of the constant bashing over the head that it does with the similar names and Joubert's incessant use of the novel in his machinations (think Rent and La Boheme).Gemma Bovery is worth the read if only for the illustrations alone, but it's frustrating to see how much better it could have been.This review was originally published on Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Gemma_Bovery_epi/content_514726137476

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