Madame Bovary (1856) is Gustave Flaubert's first published novel and is considered by many critics to be a masterpiece. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Though the basic plot is rather simple, even archetypal, the novel's true art lies in its details and hidden patterns. Flaubert was a notorious perfectionist and claimed always to be searching for the right word.
Contributions by TheMidnighters, Xanthoxyl, and Steph011.