Category Archives: Proust

Proust Book Group Meeting Number 2 : Comedy…

Proust Book Group Meeting Number 2 : Comedy

This morning we’re going to be looking as our starting point at initially three passages taken from Overture and Combray.

  • The narrator wakes up to escape the annoying pinches of his great uncle.
  • Céline and Flora thank Swann for the case of Asti.
  • The introduction of Tante Léonie.

We’ll take these as a ‘way in’ – a step towards understanding why and how Proust uses humour and we’ll see where we end up.


Proust and a Mug of Tea

Proust and a mug of Tea

By Connie


Catching up on reading Proust, but as you can see, I haven’t got very far yet – just at the beginning of “Combray”. I’m taking it just a few pages at a time – it seems to need the sort of concentrated reading that I can’t maintain for any length of time.
The tea – well it’s not limeflower and not very refined looking in that Aston Villa mug – I have no idea where that mug came from; I borrowed it and was sitting in the sunshine warming up after a bracing open air swim.
The Aston villa mug may spark memories for some, but the tea it contains is a favourite of mine – smoky Lapsang Souchong. It was not bought by me, but I shall go looking for some – it’s by the Bristol Tea Company and I think you can buy some online.
Time to get some – this flavour would be evocative for me.

I checked on the Bristol Tea Company website and sadly couldn’t find Lime Flower tea (I’m looking forward to trying some with Isabella). But I did find that Lapsang Souchong:

Tea and Cake…Getting Ready to Read

Picture clue : tea and cake.  Now guess the book

Think I might be on to something here. Perhaps an idea for the next pub quiz!  A picture-clues-for-classic-novels round. Or perhaps not.

Next let’s try a quotation clue :

je portai à mes lèvres une cuillerée du thé où j’avais laissé s’amollir un morceau de madeleine.

I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.

Well, it refers to the madeleine episode which occurs in Ouverture/Overture,  the section at the very start of Marcel Proust’s very long  ‘A la Recherche du temps perdu’.  And there’s your answer! Tea and cake – getting ready to read Proust.

And that is the novel for the FrockFriday book group : Marcel Proust’s very long  ‘A la Recherche du temps perdu’.

However, I am still feeling very daunted by the very length of  ‘A la Recherche’ . That’s why ‘A la Recherche‘ will remain the book under discussion for the forseeable future. No ‘finish by’ dates and ‘Read Proust in 48 hours’ challenges here.  And, to jolly things up a bit, I was thinking of  getting some madeleines in for our next Proust book group meeting. Nothing like a cup of tea and a piece of cake to ease us in to what’s seen by many as the Mount Everest of literature. Think we’re going to need our strength.

Won’t be going full Proust just yet though ( and no doubt the visually pedantic among you will have already noted the deliberate mistake in the picture clues), as I’m not sure where I can get lime-flower tea … Might have to stick with Yorkshire Gold until I do. Although, as I’m anticipating the reading of A la Recherche will take quite some time, I might have been able to get my hands on some by the time we eventually finish.

Nearly abandoned reading the book though, even before we got started.

Mention of the Proust book group has been met by derision, often mild, occasionally hostile.  ‘Life’s too short!’ ‘Why would I?’ ‘That’s so pretentious!’ ‘You’re joking, right?”I bet that‘ll be popular!’  so that I too have replied in kind, laughing at how ridiculous I am for even thinking about it. What? Me? Read Proust?  But it has also been met by delirious enthusiasm and passionate support, mostly from those who, more importantly, have actually read the book and, most importantly, loved it. Indeed, many of the recommendations I will be using for further reading have come from them.

So, let’s start a Proust book group!

Life may be too short for some of you to want to dip your toe into A la Recherche, whereas for those of you who have always wanted to try it then please do try with us. Please feel free to join us as we make our very slow way through the very long ‘A la Recherche’. All are welcome to contribute and read along with us.

For details of the first Proust book group meeting click  Topic under discussion is ‘Reality and Memory’.

The date of the second book group meeting is 4th June. Topic to be discussed ‘comedy in Overture and Combray’.  Click here for more details and links to help as you read.

LINKFILE :  How to make your own madeleines and where to buy lime-flower tea

for a classic French madeleine recipe  –

Or Bonne Maman make them and are available in most supermarkets. Let’s face it, not many of us have madeleine moulds lurking at the back of our kitchen cupboards!

to buy the tea

more general

to join in the first Proust book group discussion on reality and memory –




In search of Past Literature.       Connie

When Isabella asked me (again!) to start a Proust reading group I
wasn’t convinced.I read it (well most of it) years ago and the thought
of slogging through all 12 books was daunting.

I don’t have the time for that. And sometimes you go back to a book
you loved and it’s not the same; you’ve changed and its magic has
vanished – I loved this book once and, was afraid this might happen.

But Isabella is enthusiastic and persuasive, so I’ve agreed to read
some of it. Maybe just a few pages. I’m making no promises, but I’m
looking forward to hearing what Isabella has to say, so long as she’s
not insisting on those exam questions.

My reasons for doing it?

He’s a great writer and passages of “A la Recherche” have stayed with me vividly years later.

His acute observations have that quality that make you think, “Yes,
that’s exactly it!”  – a flash of recognition and seeing the world

Yes, he’s a self-absorbed, irritating invalid ( well I’m pretty
self-obsessed when I’m not well) but he portrays a dreamy, changing,
shifting world that is just fascinating.

His writing is dense, like poetry, which is why I think that you can
just read a sentence, a paragraph or a few pages and still take a
great deal from that small amount.

I hope I’ll manage more than that, but this is my start.

For the second time.

A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleur – live life to the fullest

IMG_2031[1]My ‘en fleur’ days are behind me but this Proust title crossed my mind when I saw my next fabric choice…The pattern reminds me of a dress I wore when I was, fleetingly, ‘en fleur’ and so I had to get it.


I apologise to any Proust fans out there (who may have stumbled across this lowly blog about dresses in the course of their no[stone-unturned research) for the tenuous link…. This dress is not to be my madeleine- dipped- in- tilleul moment.


Now I know that I’m not going to be able to recapture ‘le temps perdu’ ( lost time ! Another laboured Proustian link…)  in one sense but I boldly intend to create a dress that at least for me recalls a time when I was blooming.


Oh how potentially painful, you might think, and it would be if that were to be the main reason for making it. But no ,  as the fundamental point of making a dress in a fabric which reminds me of my supposed ‘Hay Day’  would be to remind me to –

enjoy the moment

seize the day

gather rosebuds while I can

appreciate what I’ve got.


When I was blooming I really was oblivious to the fact.  When I was ‘en fleur’ I had no idea. I was awkward, uncomfortable with myself and hid myself away. I was at my most beautiful ( note that I say my most beautiful. Not to be confused with the most beautiful…) and I did not enjoy it.


Time  has helped me to see that.  And so now, wearing my en fleur dress I do not foolishly seek to recapture my lost youthful self, rather I hope to remind myself that I must live in the moment and enjoy who I am now. I may not be the most anything but I owe it to myself to be my most something. Right here, right now ( isn’t that from a song?  I think I’d better round this post off now as if I’m not careful I’ll lead myself down the Eminem song route. You know the one. Think cricket. Mad cultural references stop here. STOP)


And with that I cut out the dress in the en fleur fabric with my mother’s words ringing in my ears ‘Wear it while you can Izz! ‘ And I will.

But I’ll have to finish it first… Time to ‘lose myself’ (stop, stop, stop…) as this opportunity only ‘comes once in a lifetime’ (STOP).