"A Simple Soul" is the perfect Gustave Flaubert short story: a tale told in spare, straightforward language full of richly observed details. The "soul" is Felicite, the exemplary servant of the austere Madame Aubin. Orphaned and illiterate, Felicite devotes her life to her mistress and Madame's two children. Her kindheartedness extends to her nephew and a local beggar, but it is seldom reciprocated.
Over the years, Felicite suffers many losses but is greatly comforted by the gift of a parrot, Loulou, who becomes her dearest companion. Deeply religious and burdened by the maladies of old age, she eventually confuses the long-dead Loulou with her muddled conception of the Holy Ghost. This finely wrought character study of the life of a selfless innocent is a deserved classic.
What listeners say about A Simple Soul
- M. Clark
Refreshing, beautiful, sweet, simple
While I have always loved Madame Bovary, I have never read Flaubert’s short stories. I became interested when I saw that the story was made into a French film starring Sandrine Bonaire. At one point I almost gave up on the story, with its long descriptions and lack of drama, but I soon found the payoff worth it. The portrait of the protagonist, Felicity, sits in a deep place of the heart. In modern times, she might have been diagnosed with autism. A sweet and simple soul, indeed, as the title states. A modern story like this I would be pressed to find. One of the benefits of 150 year old literature are subtleties and insights on less flamboyant characters such as this moving and tender portrait. Themes of class division, sexism, religious perspectives and mental handicaps here, and given some interesting twists and resolutions. I won’t forget this story. Narration could not have been more entertaining or eloquent! Absolute perfection!