Author: Marcel Proust, 1918. Translated by Scott Moncrieff & Terence Kilmartin; revised by D J Enright, 1992.
Genre: Modern Classic. Literary. Comedy of Manners. Coming of Age.
Other Details: 2005 Vintage Proust Edition. Paperback. 640 pages.
'Within a Budding Grove' describes the first shoots of an astonishing love affair. When Proust's adolescent narrator travels from Paris to the sunny seaside town of Balbec he meets an intriguing set of new acquaintances who provide him with both friendship and entertainment. Most significantly of all he meets a dark-haired girl with sparkling eyes and a tiny beauty spot on her chin: the mysterious Albertine, who will become the great love of his life. - synopsis from Vintage UK website.
The first section of the novel titled Madame Swann at Home takes place in Paris as the adolescent narrator continues his pursuit of Gilberte, the daughter of Charles and Odette Swann. In the final section of Swann's Way he had encountered Gilberte when they both were playing in the Champs-Élysées. Here he manages to gain an invitation to the Swann's residence to join Gilberte and other of her friends for tea. He soon becomes a regular visitor. Eventually though he becomes determined to free himself from this unrequited love. He and Gilberte quarrel and he decides to never see her again though this proves a difficult process.
The second section Place Names - The Place takes place two year later and this is where the narrator is on holiday with his grandmother in Balbec. Aside from becoming friends with Albertine he also makes friends with Robert de Saint-Loup, who is part of the aristocratic Guermantes family.
Proust's prose is exquisite and after reading Swann's Way I have become familiar with his ornate descriptions and musings about life, art and literature. The novel is like sipping a fine wine and I have found over the weeks that I do need to be in the right frame of mind to read it. That time usually seems to be on Sunday afternoons when there is nothing to do except immerse myself in Proust's sparkling world.