One of the novel’s most powerful scenes comes when fearing infidelity Swann questions Odette about the possibility of past affairs.
Despite the answers being deeply hurtful he continues to probe – unable to resist his own perverse urge to know that which he cannot bear.
It’s beautifully written, often extremely funny and it contains depictions of jealousy I found personally difficult to read they felt so true.
It’s also suffused with a powerful sense of mortality, yet not in a morbid fashion.
Swann’s love is mirrored in the final section of the book, which returns to Marcel who is now a little older (though still a child) and in Paris.
Marcel is in love with Swann’s daughter, Gilberte, but like Swann his love does not seem to be returned.
That kiss is so important to him that he’ll even try to delay it, so as to stave off the bleak time after it’s been given when he has to wait for morning before feeling her love again.
I’m conscious that having written this much I’ve said nothing of what the book is actually about in terms of its story. The novel opens with Proust/the narrator as a child staying at his grandparent’s house in Combray.
He is a nervous and sickly child who dotes on his mother’s affection.
There is an acute level of social observation and the portraits of the family members, their friends, acquaintances and social world are distinct and persuasive.
Many of the scenes with the family are small comic masterpieces – often with slow buildups making them very difficult to quote.