"In 1869, Gustave Flaubert published what he considered to be his masterwork novel, A Sentimental Education, which told a deeply human and deeply pessimistic story of the 1848 revolutions. The book was a critical and commercial flop. Flaubert was devastated. Yet his year was only going to get worse. The summer of 1870 through the spring of 1871 would come to be known as the "Terrible Year" in France. France suffered a humiliating defeat in their war against Prussia, followed by the fall of Napoleon III and his Second Empire, the declaration of a republic, then the siege of Paris by the Prussian army, capitulation, and a dishonorable peace. This in turn provoked a revolt of the people of Paris, who formed a local government called the Commune, which was crushed in the bloodiest class warfare France has ever known. Paris by the end of May 1871--at the end of "the Bloody Week," with the defeat and summary execution of the insurrectionists--was a scorched wasteland, set afire by the retreating Communards. As the dust settled, a struggle began among politicians and artists to define France's future. Yet no one could agree on what France should become; Parisians built the Sacré-Cœur as a monument to French reactionaries just as the newly formed secular republic was distancing itself from religion. For a time, France was inches away from returning to a monarchy led by the Comte de Chambord. As artists, Gustave Flaubert along with his friend George Sand were part of this larger movement to capture the new essence of France and predict the country's future course. Flaubert was convinced that the commune could never have happened if more people had read A Sentimental Education."