But it was also Posy Simmonds so, initial disappointment aside, I read on. And of course it's well written and beautifully illustrated, but I couldn't get into the story. It was hard to invest in a character I knew was going to die, a bit like being introduced to someone at a party who then tells you they're moving to the other side of the country next week. And there wasn't enough of a mystery about her demise to keep me intrigued.
In The Secret History by Donna Tartt we know from the start that one of the friends is going to die, killed by another but the novel shifts into the narrative present and the mystery of who dunnit and why sustains the story. Sadly, this doesn't happen in Gemma Bovary which is always framed by Joubert's backwards looking narrative. I read to the end feeling slightly disappointed throughout.
I'm not saying you should never use flashback but you have to work so much harder as a writer to engage the reader, even if you're as brilliantly talented as Posy Simmonds undoubtedly is. Most of the time a straightforward narrative will work just as well so why make life difficult for yourself?