Francine du Plessix Gray Rage and Fire: A Life of Louise Colet.
Simon & Schuster, 432 pages, $27.50
reviewed by Renee Winegarten
Familiar to admirers of Gustave Flaubert as the writer with whom he had a tempestuous affair, Louise Colet has not—until fairly recently—enjoyed a good press. Yet it was to her that Flaubert addressed the now celebrated letters on his art that make the genesis of Madame Bovary one of the best-charted in fiction. Fifty years ago, one leading Flaubert scholar could just bring himself to say of this poet and woman of letters that a novel of hers was “not without talent” and that she herself was “not without genuine grievances.” However, the wave of feminism since the 1970s has swept Louise Colet, known variously to her contemporaries as “the Muse,” “Penserosa,” “Sappho,” along with it. Julian Barnes...