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A Summer of Proust: Pages 100-150

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Another week, another 50 pages. The narrator is still recounting his childhood visits to Combray. In the previous 50 pages we read about the narrator's aunt and her sleeping habits, his know-it-all hipster friend Bloch and his literary tendencies. In this 50 pages, Our little Romeo is in love and the object of his affection is Swann's daughter. There's a bit of a rub, though, and its that he's never met her. He is also in love with Hawthorn's. While walking along a path adjacent to Swann's estate, he sees a pretty pink hawthorn among a whole mess of white hawthorns and to him, this pink flower is a girl in a party dress, decked out for the holiday while everyone around her is in regular clothes. (These visits to Combray were Easter visits to the countryside, so the narrator may have had holidays on the brain.) And, then he sees her, Swann's daughter, and she sees him. She smirks indifferently and they are both called away and he wishes that he'd yelled at her and told her that he hated her so that she would remember him.

After this incident, he makes mistakes so that people will correct him by having to say Swann's name. He gets a secret thrill out of it the way you do when someone mentions in passing the name of your crush. But, he's truly in love with the hawthorns. At one point, he ruins a jacket giving them a hug good bye, much to the displeasure of his mother.

The narrator discusses in these 50 pages his father's relationship with their neighbor Legrandin, who is a snob and does not know it. He also discusses his Great Aunt's visitors and Francoise. His Aunt's maid Francoise is a force of nature and is also clever and manipulative, making life hard for the other staff so that they do not become too attached to her mistress.

Francoise also is revealed to be the sort of person who has no pity for her coworkers but will cry over descriptions of what transpires to hypothetical people in medical books. Sometimes, it is easier to identify with the hypothetical person than it is with the people around us, the details of whose lives we are well aware. Of course, Franciose would do anything for her own family, so it is not that she is heartless. It is just that there are places to which pity does not extend.

In these 50 pages, the narrator talks about a trip to the sea at Balbec, but he does not actually describe the trip. I hope this foreshadows a discussion of this trip.

I have to say, at this point in the book, I keep getting caught up in the little details and underline sentences that I think are pretty (or, just really long) or laugh – and then afterward I think, "What is the point again?" And then I remember the novel is called In Search of Lost Time and that these little stories and details are the point. They are the things that were forgotten or hidden away that have been recovered by incident with the lime blossom tea and the madeleine.

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About Katharine Donelson