Picking up where Swann's Way left off, this is the enthralling, equisitely poetical second instalment of Proust's masterpiece. If - like me - you struggled through the first volume to adjust to the Proustian technique by which sentences can, and frequently do, occupy an entire page of script, by the time you pick up the second volume the language seems as natural and fluent as it once felt awkward and clumsy.
The Author spends the first part of the novel dealing with love and obsession in his formative years - his emotions fluttering between Gilberte and her mother, the notorious Mme Swann. Whilst the first half of Within a Budding Grove offers a delightful insight into the workings of human love and, more touchingly, the anguish from which it is unseparable in the heart of the author, the volume really comes to live when we reach Balbec.
In the latter half of the novel we are treated to Proust at his best: using the characters of Elstir, Albertine and Saint-Loup the author treats us to splendid discussions on what are, in descending order of value, his most cherished themes of art, love and friendship respectively.
In short, Swann's way was a splendid prologue to the rest of the novel which reaches new heights in this its second volume. If you were thinking about leaving it a while before attempting part two, don't - do it now.