By the Sea, Flaubert and Me …
When I was just a tween-ager, I read the most romantic, 10-hanky novel by a Frenchman named Gustav Flaubert. After that time, and reading it over again to be certain that I hadn’t merely dreamed it, I watched the 1949 film version, directed in the year of my birth by the renowned Vincent Minnelli. In those days, it was featured on TV on the series, ‘The Million Dollar Movie’, with a showing every night and four times on the weekend in Los Angeles.
The gorgeous Jennifer Jones was unforgettable in the role of the tragic Madame Bovary. I could identify with her even then as a girl raised in the Valley, with big dreams of Hollywood, glamour, and romance inherited from my two, much-older, and scandalously sexy sisters. Since those times, I have always longed to visit the village of Trouville-sur-Mer. So, today Ted and I traveled five hours round-trip with EV to visit what has sometimes been referred to as the“charming little sister of Deauville”.
Deauville is a well-known town in Normandy, where you can find the rich and famous enjoying beaches and casinos, seeing and being seen, at soirees in luxury hotels and pricey restaurants, wearing bikinis on the beach and elegant gowns in the ballrooms. In Trouville, we had hoped to take a stroll after a scrumptious seafood lunch by the ocean on the ‘plage’, and then to take a leisurely stroll through the center of the village, to enjoy window shopping and the architecture that harkens back to the half-timbered framing and thatched roofs of the buildings circa that point in time, and maybe even to find a good poissonnerie, where we could purchase some seafood to take home in the thermal picnic basket that we kept in EV’s trunk for just such occasions.
Sadly, after lunch we found a ticket on our car windshield, and as we drove around there was no such 'centre ville’ through which to stroll. Now I was beginning to understand why Madame Bovary had been so disappointed with her fate, to be ensconced in this town in which her physician-husband had settled them in a cottage, and had established his practice.
Emma had longed to escape her dreary surroundings, devoid of her ideal of romance and beauty depicted in images from magazines, clipped and pinned to the wall above her bed as a teenaged country girl . In the end, she committed suicide. My ideal of romance and beauty was not hers. I was despairing of the sight of all the modern commercialism that had taken over this storied village.
Unlike Emma, I felt more murderous than suicidal. Dreary was not how I would describe Trouville. Instead I found it to be an overcrowded haven for tourists and vacationers in shorts and flip-flops, with wall-to-wall eateries lining the streets along with some tasty if overpriced seafood.
So, we drove up through the steep hills to the top of the residential area on this beautiful day, just to catch a glimpse of the ocean and then spiraled back down past the Hotel Gustav Flaubert, a meager vestige of what had primed us to drive so far to get here.
But, before heading back home onto the Autoroute, we crossed over the bridge that connected the sister cities, parked EV, and after a quiet walk by the canal, we sat on a bench and enjoyed the sea air, the water, and the cry of the gulls. The sights, smells, and sounds of nature are always a balm for my soul. But not for Emma in what had been a quiet little commune in her day.
As we drove the road back home to Paris, it wasn’t long before we quickly reversed gears, deciding to stop off in the much smaller village of Pont-l’Évêques for coffee and desert; a charming spot graced with flowers and fountains in the round-about and trellises of color in front of a nice terrasse cafe.
Back on the road again we were able to console each other. After all, the déjeuner by the plage was delicious; Ted had enjoyed a sumptuous seafood choucroute with great rose-colored gambas, moules, haddock, salmon, and saffron sauce; while I chose the lobster. We both enjoyed a special house salad with foie grasse on toasts, more gambas, hard boiled eggs with yokes as red as the sun sinking toward the horizon, and lightly dressed lettuce.
When we arrived home, I was elated to find that the cover work for my new book had actually arrived to my inbox, as promised. I was overjoyed that, after six attempts to capture my concept, Karl had hit the nail on the head. It was just as I had imagined at last! I was not disappointed. Having already gone over the galley proofs, it seemed that all our collective labors would rightfully lead to a book launch on Sept 6th, which is Labor Day in the States. How fitting ‼️
Poor “Madame Bovary” never had the happy ending she'd longed for, but our day in Trouville-Sur-Mer ended as happily as could be, at home and in Paris.
PS. I hope you will read my cozy, little mystery novel and find out
who lives, who dies, and how I tell this story 🩸