I somehow ended up reading them both simultaneously. So I couldn't help wonderingWhat Madam Bovary Might Have Thought Of Good Omens
Three days later, a package arrived; there was no return address, but she immediately recognised Rodolphe's hand. It contained a paperback novel, whose title was Good Omens
. Feverishly, she cast herself over it. Her English was poor, but, with the aid of a dictionary, she persevered and soon made great progress.
The more she read, the greater her bewilderment became. The book at first reminded her of Candide
, which she had surreptitiously read at the convent, but M. Voltaire's ésprit
had been replaced by another ingredient she was unable to name; she suspected that it must be the strange English invention they called humour
. All the personages were well-meaning and agreeable; the witches, the torturers of witches, the prostitutes, even the Demons of Hell; they were filled with kindness and compassion, and their worst faults amounted to an occasional mild irritability. Where were the indifference and thoughtless cruelty that surrounded her, and which had now become the very air she breathed?
She did not know whether Rodolphe had sent her the book to comfort her or to mock her in her despair, and her futile attempts to resolve this question gradually resulted in an agonising headache. Her husband prescribed an infusion of valerian, and persuaded her to retire for the night; she lay sleepless in her bed a long time, until the drug finally took effect just as the sky was beginning to lighten. She dreamed of apocalyptic prophecies, red-headed women wielding swords, endless circles of horseless carriages, young boys with dogs.
In the morning, she remembered that she should purchase some arsenic.
It seemed unfair for this to be one-way. So, in the spirit of granting a right of reply, here's What Good Omens Might Have Thought Of Madam Bovary
"I saw this smashin' film yesterday on TV," said Adam, as the Them listened attentively. "It was called Madam Bovver-Boy -"
"She was a lady skinhead?" interrupted Brian.
"No, stupid," said Adam. "It's a French name. Bovver-Boy
. By Flow-Bear."
"You mean Madame Bovary, by Flaubert," said Wensleydale. "I read about it in The Encyclopaedia of World Literature."
Adam gave him a withering glance. "That's what I said," he continued. "Madam Bovver-Boy, by Flow-Bear. She's married to this doctor, and he's dead borin', so she starts hangin' around with these two lovers, and then she maxes out her credit card, so she eats arsernick and poisons herself. The bit where she's dyin' of the arsernick is dead good. Her tongue's hanging out and she's screamin' -"
"Why did she max out her credit card?" asked Pepper.
"She was buying presents for her lovers," said Adam. "Roses an' boxes of chocolates an' stuff like that -"
"I thought the lovers were supposed to give her presents?" said Brian dubiously. "My sister's boyfriend gave her this huge bunch of roses on Valentine's Day, and a box of Quality Street, and a balloon with -"
"She gave them presents instead because it was a proto-feminist novel," explained Wensleydale authoritatively. "That's what The Encyclopaedia of World Literature says."
Adam felt that his control of the situation was slipping, and decided to up the stakes. "It's all true," he said, in an exegetical move that would have had Flaubert scholars around the world clutching their foreheads. "Based
on a true story," he added prudently, in case the The Encyclopaedia of World Literature happened to have opinions on the subject.
Behind the bushes, Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. Crowley looked defensive. "Very loosely based," he whispered hastily. "I mean, I tempted her, it's my job you know, but Gustave changed the ending for dramatic purposes. Said it didn't work to have Rodolphe sort out her debts and then settle down in a cozy ménage à quatre
with her, Léon and her husband. I told him that's what actually happened, but he insisted the arsenic worked better..."This review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations