For half a century the housewives of Pont-l’Eveque had envied Madame Aubain her servant Felicite.
For a hundred francs a year, she cooked and did the housework, washed, ironed, mended, harnessed the horse, fattened the poultry, made the butter and remained faithful to her mistress—although the latter was by no means an agreeable person.
Gustave Flaubert, A Simple Soul (1877).
I find opening lines such as these to be truly inviting.
It’s like you know there’s a story that’s just begging to be told. And you’re all ears. Well, at least I am.
Gustave Flaubert is a name I have only heard of or read about in passing, but have never really sampled any of his writing before. And somehow, I don’t quite feel inclined to read his most renowned piece of work Madame Bovary. Instead, I find the tale of a simple minded servant who spends her lifetime in loyal servitude, only to be exploited and mistreated at the end, to be a more compelling read.
So, I guess my acquaintance with the great Flaubert will just have to begin with this poor simple soul.