February 28, 2005 12:00 PM

By Posy Simmonds

GRAPHIC NOVEL

CRITIC’S CHOICE

Gemma Bovery is a beautifully tragic character, a wandering soul who wants what she doesn’t have, and doesn’t want what she does have. She longs for Patrick, then rejects him. She moves from London to Normandy with her husband, Charlie, but laments that “he bores her.” She delights in scaling back her work as a graphic artist because it gets her off “the treadmill of earning.” Four pages later, however, she cries, “I’m such a fool! I used to earn masses! Why did I stop?”

Does this wishy-washiness sound familiar? Any resemblance to Madame Bovary is purely intentional, but there’s no need to brush up on French lit to enjoy Simmonds’s graphic novel. A cartoonist who has written for adults and children, Simmonds adds to the charm with her illustrations, particularly as the smitten narrator Joubert comically tries to will Gemma out of an affair. Flaubert would be proud.

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