Based on Flaubert's own youthful passion for an older woman, "Sentimental Education" was described by its author as "the moral history of the men of my generation." It follows the amorous adventures of Frederic Moreau, a law student who, returning home to Normandy from Paris, notices Mme Arnoux, a slender, dark woman several years older than himself. It is the beginning of an infatuation that will last a lifetime. He befriends her husband, an influential businessman, and as their paths cross and re-cross over the years, Mme Arnoux remains the constant, unattainable love of Moreau's life. Blending love story, historical authenticity, and satire, "Sentimental Education" is one of the great French novels of the nineteenth century.
Sentimental Education begins with the hero - Frederic Moreau - leaving Paris and returning to the provinces and his mother. Part love story, part historical novel and satire it tells of how Moreau is driven by passion for an unattainable older woman. His 'sentimental education' turns out to be more of an anxious quest than a happy one, echoing Flaubert's own life experience of unrequited love. Packed with vivid detail and characterised by its historical authenticity, the book was described by Flaubert as 'the moral history of the men of my generation'.
Flaubert was born in 1821. After illness ended a career in law, he retired to live with his mother and devote himself to writing. He achieved limited success in his own lifetime, but his reputation grew steadily after his death in 1880. Geoffrey Wall teaches French at the University of York. His biography of Flaubert has been translated into four languages.
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