Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past: Within a Budding Grove. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Chatto & Windus, 1966.
Reason read: to continue the series.
If you remember from Proust’s first volume of Remembrance of Things Past our narrator was looking back on his childhood. Now he is thinking back to when he was a young adult; the coming of age stage of life. This time he has a sweetheart named Gilberte, the daughter of M. Swann, and he still has a singular attachment to his mother. Many of the same characters that were in the first installment are back in volume two, only now they are more refined due to their changing circumstances. Family relations change. Gilberte starts to drift away. The chase of Gilberte seemed endless. Twenty pages later and our narrator is still stalking her; looking for excuses to connect with her. The turning point was when he decides to play hard to get himself. The head game of renouncing Gilberte and then realizing this could backfire and he could lose her forever had a very modern feel to it.
Most of the drama takes place in the seaside town of Balbec or Normandy, France. There are times when Within a Budding Grove drags. Entire pages are dedicated to the description of ladies gowns. Society’s dedication to cordial formalities and the quest for the value of Beauty were tiresome. Questioning the possibilities of happiness or suffering seems an age-old topic. Only when the narrator was looking for intellectual distraction in a dinner conversation did I find the situation funny. To see what others had done with the carnation wrapped in silver paper was relatable.
Quotes I liked, “My father had always meant me to become a diplomat, and I could not endure the thought of that…” (p 13) and “There is perhaps nothing that gives us so strong an impression of the reality of the external world as the difference in the positions, relative to ourself, of even a quite unimportant person before we have not met him and after” (p 341).
Author fact: Marcel Proust’s books coined the phrase “romans-fleuves” as a way to describe them.
Book trivia: Within a Budding Grove is also called In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.
Nancy said: Pearl does not say anything specific about Budding Grove.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Romans-Fleuves (p 208).