Page 45 Review by Stephen
Gemma Bovery has been in the ground three weeks.
That's the first line, contemplated by the Normandy village boulanger, Raymond Joubert. He stands stooped in his bakery, eyes staring mournfully over his glasses. People have begun to forget - or anyway I don't hear talk in the shop any more. But I - I never stop thinking of her. The nights are the worst. If I sleep, I dream of her dead eyes which are the blue of stained glass... What I am now compelled to write - of the recent tragedy in our small town - is no more than an attempt to make some sense of what happened: an attempt to discover the facts and thereby the extent (or the limit) of my own culpability.
Raymond had become a friend to the Boverys, who moved out to France on artist Gemma's insistence, drawn by the glamour of an ideal she never found. Instead she became restless, got carried away with retail therapy in order to reinvigorate her beauty (the new-look Gemma was modelled on Princess Dianna), and fell in love with another man. But it wasn't Raymond... Some of these things Joubert already knew, some of them he discovers in the diaries he steals from her broken husband, Charlie.
This book is a cleverly conceived autopsy, then, using Gemma's diaries and Raymond's memories to piece together the events that led up to her death, and Raymond's role in them. It's not just a reworking of the French novel, Flaubert's Madame Bovary (no, you don't need to have read it), but a story in which the book itself plays a critical role. Like TAMARA DREWE, this was originally serialised in The Guardian, but on a daily basis and in soft grey pencil.
Mark was a fan, I am a fan, Tom's Mum is a fan. The Honeywell HZ519 is more of a convection heater, but that's besides the point.