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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 1 January 2015
This is a wryly humorous book, written with tongue firmly in cheek. The author uses a ‘Self-Help’ layout to unveil both a short biography of Proust himself and to incorporate the writer’s thoughts to show us how to appreciate his work and life in general. There are chapters on how to Love Life, Read for Yourself, Take Your Time, Suffer Successfully, Express Your Emotions, Be a Good Friend, Open Your Eyes, Be Happy in Love and Put Books Down.

Along the way we read of Proust’s meeting with James Joyce (sadly disappointing), his dislike of noise, his family, how to appreciate the ordinary things in life, his relationship with his mother, his ailments and the importance he placed on friendship. My knowledge of Proust is not great, but I look forward to reading his work and this was suggested to me as a good beginning. Indeed, if you are considering reading Proust’s work, this is a really good introduction to the man and his writing. Highly recommended and a wonderfully enjoyable read.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 September 2012
I have never read Proust and this is the first book I've read by Alain De Botton. I am now intrigued by Proust as it seems he had some interesting things to say about everyday life and the problems which beset us all. Falling in love, friendship and putting books down among other subjects are covered in this interesting little book.

As well as receiving some useful life advice such as listening to your friends rather than insisting on telling them about yourself and your concerns; I formed a vivid picture of Proust himself. I liked the way he moved round the table when he held dinner parties so that each of his guests received his undivided attention for a time. Yes he was a hypochondriac and valetudinarian but he was also a good friend and has many useful things to say about friendship.

It seems from reading this book that Proust's epic novel concentrates on everyday happenings as demonstrated by the famous madeleine incident. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about not taking your own views from famous authors but using them as jumping off points to establish what you yourself think. Read books but don't take them as absolute truths - think for yourself as well.

I thought it was interesting that Virginia Woolf felt her own work was no good at all after reading Proust as she thought he had written the perfect novel and there was no point in anyone writing anything else. Overall this is an interesting book as it is a mixture of biographical information about Proust himself and a dissection of some of his writing. If you're wondering about reading Proust but are wary of dipping a toe in the water then this would be a good place to start.
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on 4 July 2011
This book is a tasty appetiser for anyone considering reading a bit of (or a lot of) Proust. Teasing out several themes representative of Proust's refections, De Botton elegantly combines novel excerpts, vignettes from Proust's life, and a perceptive and amusing commentary on both.

We're told how Proust said he would spend his final weeks if given notice of impending doom; how rich, deep, complex and worth savouring he found life; how strongly he advocated continually learning from misfortune.

We learn how vividly he identified fictional characters with real ones; how alert he was to the artistic skill of highlighting what the audience knew but had never articulated; and how passionate he was for originality, hence authenticity, versus imitation and cliché.

De Botton describes Proust's emphatic distinction between the amount of truth to be found in books and the amount to be found in relationships; and his delight in the edification of books in combination with continuing to think for ourselves.

He goes on to illustrate the ways Proust emphasised the importance of appreciating what you have, rather than what you might have; the value of the humble compared to the exalted; the greater reward we find in things we have had to yearn for; and how readily familiarity breeds contempt.

We are left in no doubt that Proust can change our life for the better.
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on 5 April 2015
The book reads like a short biography, and by the end of it I felt that Proust was an old friend of mine.
One of those imaginary - yet very real - friends we can consult and discuss with in the privacy of our minds.

This is a peculiar biography though in the sense that there is no chronology and just enough details on Proust's life to, well, bring him to life for the reader.
The author cuts to the chase and answers what to me is the main question underlying every biography:
'What is there to learn from the life of X?'

There are two main things I will remember from my friend Marcel.

The first one is his unusual conception of friendship. Friendship for Marcel did not include honesty as a defining feature.
The purpose of friendship for Marcel was to feel the warmth of affection, not to be known for who he really was, or what he really thought.
He had his books for that.
Marcel wanted to be liked - don't we all - and if that meant a touch of hypocrisy, and a basket of compliments or flowers, then it was a cheap price to pay.
In his books however, he was much less forgiving: the painful truth he spared his friends with, he indulged his readers.
I know from personal experience the tension there sometimes is between friendship and honesty.
Honesty can loose you a friend. At the same time, was he/she a friend worth keeping?
I think it depends on the joy and satisfaction you derive from the friendship (or not).
Marcel derived his books so maintaining the friendship that was a source of inspiration for him must have been paramount.
As for me, if a friend makes me feel good, brings something positive to my life, then I have no problem sparing them a truth they might not want to hear because our friendship is more important than that. So I agree with Marcel in that respect.

The second thing is the one that actually prompted me to write this review: Marcel's urge to please elaborate: 'des details!'
Why is this book a good book? What do you mean by good?
Often enough we - certainly I - don't take time to articulate our thoughts and feelings in a way that can be communicated to others starting with ourselves.
A lot remains like a vague impression poorly described with adjectives such as 'nice', 'good' etc.
And I think we miss out on an opportunity to learn as a result: to learn more about ourselves mostly.

I don't know if I will stick to it but after meeting Marcel, I simply might end up reading less books and writing more reviews!
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on 24 February 2016
Alain de Boton is a supremely elegant writer. This is a charming, witty, precise and clever book, which delivers an amusing yet respectful portrait of the enigmatic Proust. It makes you reflect on how to live life but in a subtle rather than sledgehammer style. It also made me laugh out loud a number of times. I will reread this many times I am sure. Bravo Mr de Boton.
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on 28 July 2016
I am not sure how the credit should be apportioned between De Botton / Proust, but for those looking to appraise and perhaps improve or amend their outlook on the world, this is an excellent book.

Nicely structured for me , allowing me to revisit areas I would like to think about again .... And again
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on 9 October 2016
Unlike Proust, this affectionate yet informative reflection on Proust's life and work can be easily enjoyed while whetting one's appetite for a return to the master's epic reflections...
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on 1 January 2015
This is a fine delve in to the work of Proust and his life and how reinterpretation of it may be relevant for our own lives.
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on 7 July 2016
I am struggling to like this book which I had such high hopes for. Not even half way through any my glance is slipping to other books. This is not like Alain De Botton's lectures. No laugh out loud or even giggle moments from this thus far. A few chapters in,only one digestible insight. I will endeavour to finish it and hope it will change my mind.
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on 13 June 2016
As always, Alain de Botton is precise and concise. This book is an easy and enjoyable read that picks up and examines the threads running through Proust's work. It is funny, erudite and modest. If you are struggling with deciding exactly what A la recherche is trying to say, this book is a very helpful and clarifying guide.
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