The Magnetic Diaries is simultaneously a narrative in poems, a critical appreciation, and a book of literary hide and seek. Taking the characters and storyline of Gustave Flaubert's 19th-century masterpiece Madame Bovary, Sarah James re-envisages them in a modern 21st-century English setting. The contemporary heroine, Emma Bailey, battles with similar romantic idealism, illusions about love, a stifling middle-class lifestyle, boredom, and depression. But will modern treatment save her and her marriage?
Flaubert's tale is reworked and extended through moving lyrical fragments and beautifully crafted poems reconstructed by fictional researchers from Emma's diary and treatment notes. This book does not shy away from the rawness of severe depression or the troubled heroine's behavior. Instead, introspection and powerful poetry reveal that beauty and tenderness can exist even in pain.
The Magnetic Diaries was highly commended in the Forward Prizes.