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Marcel Proust's Search for Lost Time: A Reader's Guide to the Remembrance of Things Past

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  251 ratings  ·  33 reviews
An accessible, irreverent guide to one of the most admired--and entertaining--novels of the past century: Rememberance of Things Past. There is no other guide like this; a user-friendly and enticing entry into the marvelously enjoyable world of Proust.

At seven volumes, three thousand pages, and more than four hundred characters, as well as a towering reputation as a litera
Paperback, 385 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Vintage (first published August 6th 2007)
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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  251 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Sean Kottke
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This could be considered a weightier, better-written Cliff's Notes to Proust, but I found it an indispensable companion for my reading of In Search of Lost Time, given the fifteen year time span that it took me to read it and the complexity of Proust's project of writing an essay in the form of a novel :) It was helpful for validating my impressions of the big ideas in each segment of the book and refreshing my memory of characters' identities, biographies and relationships. The historical conte ...more
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not entirely sure why this book was written. It comes off as a slightly heftier Cliff's Notes version of In Search of Lost Time, with the bulk of the pages devoted to plot synopses and character descriptions. To devote so much space to the plot and characters of Proust is to miss the point entirely. While this might be useful as a bedside reference to help sort out the numerous characters in Proust (and for that reason I gave it two stars instead of less), it falls far short of the ground co ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: First time Proust readers
This is a great, non-academic guide to Proust. The book summaries, character descriptions, and background information are presented in clear language and logical order designed for the "readers" of Proust rather than for "researchers".

After second read:

Confirmed in my opinion that this book is a great support for Proust without having to become a Proust-scholar to understand it.

Having gone through the book twice now, I feel well-prepared for the 2013 year of reading Proust. Will also be looking
Dec 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this companion read to Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. I would read a book by Proust, read the chapter in Patrick Alexander's book, etc. If I lost track of a character, I'd check the character list in this book. After finishing Proust, I read the sections on the history of France at the time of Proust, the Dreyfus Affair and Paris in the time of Proust.

This is an interesting and informative addition to reading Proust.
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Since reading Proust can take years, this guide provides a useful summary of the books and characters which can serve as a "refresher" between books. I am just about to start book 4, and it's been months since I finished book 3, so the book summaries were a good reminder of "the story thus far.".

The short biography and background chapters are also useful. On the whole, though, there aren't any great or even new insights here. Mary Ann Caws book covers most of the same info found in these backgr
Aug 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was simply a very very very very long Cliff's Notes. It would be helpful as a reference guide, but since it is titled a reader's guide I thought it was going to offer helpful insight as I made my way through Proust's enormous and somewhat treacherous text. Rather, it gave boring summaries of everything I just read, including very lengthy (often whole page) quotes. I just read it, so why would I want to read it again here? The best section was a historical guide to Proust's Paris, including ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very useful reference for those like me who keep forgetting who's who and miss things because they lose track of what is going on by the time they get to the end of one of Proust's long sentences. If I was able to maintain focus and read all of Remembrance of Things Past consecutively, maybe I wouldn't need such a guide. But If you're like me and tackle the novels with significant time in-between, then the character outlines, plot synopsis, contextual points and suggestions for further reading ...more
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Alright as a reference for overview of the plot and biographical info on Proust. Stylistically quite bad though, and I didn't agree with Alexander about which parts of the novel were most compelling and which were boring. Also, horrible as a reading companion if you are reading the novel for the first time, as there are huge spoilers the whole way along... DO NOT READ WITHOUT COMPLETING THE NOVEL
Chris Flick
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wish that I had read this before I read The Remembrance of Things Past. The author provides an excellent summary of the plot, as well as detailed descriptions of each character, and insight into Proust's Paris and the relationship of his book to French history. Now I want to go back and read The Remembrance of Things Past again.
Dec 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Useful to a total newcomer to Proust, and the Character guide a definite plus as one wends one's way through the great work, but as to content, not so hot.
Ann Otto
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Before attempting Marcel Proust's The Remembrance of Things Past, I decided to do some research. I started with William Carter's biography, Marcel Proust (previously reviewed), and just finished Patrick Alexander's Reader's Guide. There are many guides to Proust's work, but Alexander's is basically a companion to the three-volume Remembrance of Things Past as all are published by Random House Vintage Books. Many current and past authors consider Proust's work the best novel ever written-so a mus ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Entertaining, and provided some context as well as the idea that things said in one part of the book recur later with more meaning (so you need to pay attention). I might have to take it out of the library again if I ever try to read Lost Time again. His summary of the story reminds me why I only liked the first and last volumes, though.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Proust is the last of the great writers I have struggled with, and having given up several times, I turned to this guide book for help. So far it seems to be working as I'm 120 pages into Proust and surviving. This book has been very helpful, particularly getting through the Overture. I thought it would be full of spoilers (which was why I resisted this approach) but in fact it is not. Anyway if you can't get through or get started with Proust I highly recommend this book.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Under the spell of À LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU since closing the last volume of the series. Haven't found a book as satisfyingly dense, as creative, as generous, since then. Start a book, leave it, start another, drop it. You know the feeling. Then I found the magical MONSIEUR PROUST'S LIBRAIRY, and now, this wonderful overview of the entire TEMPS PERDU. While I doubt this book can serve as an introduction to Proust's masterpiece for someone who has not read it (too many references to events a ...more
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over about 5 years, in sporadic but devoted bouts, I've read vol. 1 of Proust twice and volume 2 once (Modern Library "Enright" editions). In beginning vol. 3, THE GUERMANTES WAY, I decided to use this reader's guide to catch up and review what I'd already imbibed. For that purpose it's mostly great, and overall this is a really excellent and inspiring book (as in, it inspires you to delve further into Proust's world). However, there were definitely some very unwelcome spoilers in the synopses o ...more
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very well done. It's important to note this is a reader's guide, not an analytical book, as Alexander notes in his commentary, he restricts himself (more or less) to the narrative sides of things. If you're looking for a bit more of a scholarly analysis ,read David Ellison's Reader's Guide, and then go to Roger Shattuck and the other books of essays. But this is very nicely done, particularly with a list of places and characters in the second half. More importantly, this is a clear and concise p ...more
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I tried to read Marcel Proust great cycle A la recherche du temps perdu in my early twenties, but gave it up quite fast. Reading biographies on Proust and watching TV drama Un amour de Swann [Swann in love] (1984) gave the hints what's it all about. Even if it's a spoiler Patrick Alexander's book on Proust and his novel is encouraging for anyone who one day eventually will pick up the first volume and begin the journey through all seven books. Patrick Alexander give an overview of the novel and ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-studies
This has proved an invaluable companion to my reading of Marcel Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time' from March onward. I was especially grateful for his 'Who's Who in Proust' to assist me in keeping track of the many characters as well as to appreciate its themes.

I was quite disciplined in not reading ahead in the detailed summaries of each volume and read them after I'd completed the book.

Jarrod Frizzell
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not bad. I didn't use the summary while reading (thank goodness--too many spoilers), but did read the short part on historical context at the end of this guide prior to reading "In Search of Lost Time." (Not knowing French history, the discussion of the Dreyfus Affair paid off immensely for reading the novel itself.) I did read the guide after completing the novel, and it was a nice summary.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very good introduction to "Remembrance of Things Past".

I use this guide to remember characters and situations when I resume reading this huge book: it contains very practical summaries for each of the 7 volumes, characters list and connections between them.
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Extremely helpful and accessible.
Jun 17, 2016 marked it as to-read
In progress - read to pg. 43 (basically all the stuff about book 1)
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference, classic
Excellent companion book to be read with In Search of Lost Time. This helped me understand the various themes and motifs of the novel. I found it be insightful and extremely helpful!
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
A nice reference, but a bit repetitive at times. Some scenes are described with the same words in as many as three different places.
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
If you're going to read Proust, this book contains a good summary of the Dreyfus Affair, which will come in handy.
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, accessible guide to the great novel
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very helpful, well structured guide and collection of resources to assist and inspire the student of Proust.
Prasad GR
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
A brilliant & concise introduction to the world of Marcel Proust - I am now fully geared up for the plunge!
Jeff Lacy
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Helpful. Well organized. Clearly written. Takes an immense novel and breaks down plot and description of characters concisely.
rated it really liked it
Mar 20, 2013
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“Those of us of a certain age will recognize the shock that Marcel felt when he entered the main salon and saw his fellow guests for the first time after the passage of years. At first he thought it was a fancy-dress ball.” 0 likes
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