The back says nothing, but here’s my synopsis: In the first part of Within a Budding Grove we follow the unnamed protagonist as he falls deeper in love with Gilberte and is finally welcomed into the Swann household, where he becomes very infatuated with Mme Swann. He is invited to their parties and meets his favourite author, amongst others. After a while Gilberte appears to have grown tired of him and they have a fight, in which he swears to never see her again. However, he continues to visit Mme Swann.
In the second part he and his grandmother go to the seaside town Balbec one summer, but he initially winds up unable to enjoy himself due to his poor health. At first he is quite bored and spends a lot of time watching the other residents of the hotel. However, he soon befriends a royal young man, Robert de Saint-Loup, whom he spends time with. When the young royal leaves the town, the narrator befriends some girls, and falls in love for the second time.
I say: I am so in love with Proust and this epic story that I can’t even know what to say. I was like spellbound when reading this; completely lost in the language and the story. Not very much happens, and yet, it’s as if an entire lifetime passes by.And how I loved it.
Proust is a master at revealing and unfurling emotions; the way that he describes everything that the narrator feels is so incredibly affecting that I can only think of one other person who has been able to perfect that, André Aciman (but considering that he is an expert on and teaches the works of Proust, it’s no big wonder). I’m in absolute awe of the way that he can twist and then turn inside out the simplest of emotion and have it stretch on for pages; dissecting and examining every last bit of it. His insight into people and how they feel and behave is truly extraordinary and I wish I had read this in my teens.
[Instead I was busying myself with Machiavelli and John Keats]
There was a lot more humour in this second book than in the first, mostly because we were introduced to a lot of random characters at the hotel in Balbec. Another thing that I found myself getting more and more intrigued about was the way that French society worked; how much pretence and snobbery there was. Robert de Saint-Loup, who was disillusioned by the high society in which he had been raised, spent a great deal scorning it, and I really enjoyed his thoughts. Furthermore, I'm loving the way that all the lives entwine, and I'm dying to know the real deal with Mme Swann.
I could go on for days about this, but will save everyone the trouble by just saying that it was absolute perfection and I actually want to read the second part again.
*This is my first entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my 100 Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long – even though Proust isn’t on that list).