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The publication of this masterpiece of realism gave rise to an obscenity trial in 1857, which earned Flaubert an acquittal, and established Emma Bovary as one of literature's greatest characters.
The eponymous Emma is a victim of the smug, self-deluding French bourgeoisie that Flaubert despised. Trapped in a marriage to a second-rate provincial doctor, she escapes the suffocating confines of her existence by immersing herself in sentimental novels. Her idealization of beauty, romance and high society lead her into an affair with a philandering neighbour. When this ends, she is quickly drawn into a liaison that has far more dangerous consequences.