In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 2: Within a Budding Grove (Book Review)
by Marcel Proust
5 / 5 Stars
How in the world do you properly "review" this novel? In a way, you can't. Just like in Swann's Way, what Proust is doing is less providing a story than embarking on an exploration into the function of memory and how reflection can provide as much clarity as it muddles things further. The narrator (whom I refer to Marcel to make it easier) is in his early teens in this book (as far as I can gather), and much of the volume focuses on his overwhelming desire for connection (which he deems to be love).
There are several central themes and repeated imagery throughout the novel, including (but not limited to): society, adolescence, attraction, getting drunk, the sea, art, snobbery, intellectualism, class, playing hard to get, having a crush on your friend's mom, loneliness, youthful beauty, pastoral life, and, of course, love. These themes and images interweave throughout the novel with deftness and nuance. When Marcel approaches a topic yet again, it doesn't feel repetitive but intentional. I think the most fascinating thing about Proust is his ability to ramble on at length but it doesn't feel like rambling. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
If you're interested in a) Proust and b) my nonsensical anlaysis/interpretation in video form, I have a Youtube book review channel where I'm doing a Proust series of 100-125 pages a week. They're between 5-10 minutes every Friday, where I go through the plot, key moments I found interesting, and some quotes. I'm a weirdo, so don't expect some intellectual deep-dive. Here's a link to the first video: https://youtu.be/9J7yh7WxtF0
Some of my favourite quotes of the book!
“It is always thus, impelled by a state of mind which is destined not to last, that we make our irrevocable decisions”
“She was thus undergoing the attraction, unconsciously and at a distance, as the sea is swayed by the moon, though without being drawn perceptibly closer to it.”
“For regret, like desire, seeks not to analyse but to gratify itself.”
“That is why the better part of our memories exists outside us, in a blatter of rain, in the smell of an unaired room or of the first crackling brushwood fire in a cold grate: wherever, in short, we happen upon what our mind, having no use for it, had rejected, the last treasure that the past has in store, the richest, that which, when all our flow of tears seems to have dried at teh source, can make up weep again.”
“She went past, and I was left in my isolation like a shipwrecked mariner who has seen a vessel apparently approaching which has then vanished under the horizon.”
“The practice of solitude had given him a love for it”
“Her friend had extraordinarily bright eyes, like a glimpse, through an open door in a dark house, of a room into which the sun is shining with a greenish reflection from the glittering sea.”