Book Review: ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’ and maybe the way you look at food

      This is third challenge book of the year for books that have been languishing unread on my own bookshelves for over a year. As I am reading them, I am wondering, Why did it take me so long to get to this? This book is really as good as I hoped it would be when I first bought it!
      And even though Proust was a coffee drinker – I’ll quote a description of his breakfast in a moment – I am drinking mint tea. We are home from work with our
Breakfast with the birds and a brave daffodil trying to survive the snow.

Breakfast with the birds and a brave daffodil trying to survive the snow.

      2nd snow day in a row – yes, actual snow! In Memphis! And it hasn’t been above freezing since the snow began, so the roads are sill pretty icy and dangerous. So I am staying home, and drinking lots of pots of various teas.
      I had to actually go back and read a little about the life of Proust after I was one chapter into this book. I couldn’t tell if the author was being serious or tongue-in-cheek (actually a little of both). I really enjoy the tone and the language de Botton uses – I’ve put several other of his books onto my ‘to read’ list.
      I enjoyed this book – how can I not like a book with a chapter called “How to put books down” ? Or an author who uses words that I have to look up, like quotidian, etiolated, feuilleton, or munificent (which I did know, but hardly ever see in writing!)
      And of course food is mentioned in Proust’s seven volume ‘Remembrance of Things Past/In search of Lost Time’, including a famous scene about a madeleine and memory.  de Botton notes that as well as the importance of food to the author himself: “What did Proust have for breakfast?….two cups of strong coffee with milk, served in a silver pot engraved with his initials. He liked his coffee tightly packed in a filter with the water made to pass through drop by drop. He also had a croissant, fetched by his maid from a boulangerie which knew just how to make them, crisp and buttery, and which he would dunk in his coffee.”
      De Botton says “Food has a privileged role in Proust’s writings; it is often lovingly described and appreciatively eaten. To name but a few of the many dishes which Proust parades past his readers, we can cite cheese soufflé, a string bean salad, a trout with almonds, a grilled red mullet, a bouillabaisse, a skate in black butter, a beef casserole, some lamb with a Béarnaise sauce, a beef Stroganoff, a bowl of stewed peaches, a raspberry mousse, a madeleine, an apricot tart, an apple tart, a raisin cake, a chocolate sauce and a chocolate soufflé.
      I really did enjoy de Botton’s book and his view of Proust – not enough for me to actually want to read the 7 volumes of Proust’s life work, but enough to do a little more reading about Proust’s writing and his perspective on life, and the influences his works had on twentieth century literature.
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