Book Highlight: “Proust’s Duchess”

Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-De-Siècle Paris is a “beguiling group biography of three aristocratic salonnières of Parisian high society in the Belle Époque. Together they inspired the composite figure of the exquisite, elegantly remote Duchesse de Guermantes, the muse of Proust’s dreams of chivalric French history, romance and la vie Parisienne.”

This book written by Caroline Weber was recently reviewed by The New York Times. Weber, a professor of French and comparative literature at Barnard College, explores the lives of three women who “married for money and status, and lived unhappily with neurasthenic mothers, chill in-laws, unfaithful husbands, disappointing children, loneliness, depression and ennui. But they were brilliant in exploiting the language of fashion.”

Despite their unfortunate situations, “[t]hey viewed themselves, and were praised by Proust and others, as the exotic golden birds of French high society.” Weber “describes not only three women but an enormous cast of the dandies, decadents, artists, writers, musicians and financiers of the fin de siècle.”

If you’re looking to read something new and intriguing, “maybe you’ll be tempted to give Proust another go when you read about them all. In any case, Weber has succeeded much as he did in bringing that lost time back to glorious life.”

Read more:
The New York Times Book Review: French High Society During the Belle Époque Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siecle Paris
Penguin Random House: Book Profile

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