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Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

Swann's Way is Marcel Proust's literary masterpiece and the first part of the multivolume audiobook Remembrance of Things Past.

In the opening volume, the narrator travels back in time to recall his childhood and to introduce the listener to Charles Swann, a wealthy friend of the family and celebrity in the Parisian social scene. He again travels back, this time to the youth of Charles Swann in the French town of Combray, to tell the story of the love affair that took place before his own birth. The jealous love that Swann feels for the courtesan Odette, is a foretelling of the narrator's own future relationships.

Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing and at times comic portrait of French society at the close of the 19th century and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love. The remarkable details from his memory are the fundamental triumph of the audiobook; details like his younger self's desperate need for a goodnight kiss from his mother.

In 1922, Virginia Woolf marvelled, 'Oh if I could write like that!'

Many adaptations have been made of Swann's Way including the 1984 English language film, Swann in Love, starring Jeremy Irons, and a graphic novel by French comic artist Stéphane Heuet that was first published in 1998.

Narrator Biography

Whilst training at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama, John Rowe did his first radio plays for the BBC before spending several years acting in repertory theatre. He then joined the BBC's Radio Drama Company at Broadcasting House and after a three year stint on stage with the Prospect Company at The Old Vic he became a committed radio actor. He is well known for his role as Professor Jim Lloyd in The Archers. He has not only worked extensively in radio but also in television and film, as well as narrating many audiobooks, including Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust. His film appearances have included The Heart of Me (2002) and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001). He has most recently appeared on onscreen in the Netflix series The Crown (2016) and the BBC TV series Broken (2017).

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Maggie
  • Baton Rouge, LA, United States
  • 08-18-10


Proust's writing is perfect and John Rowe's delivery is perfect. settle into Swann's Way (Pt. 1 and Pt 2) as though you were settling into a huge comfy chair with all the time in the world stretched out before you and you will NEVER regret the time spent listening to this version of volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time. to the contrary. you will quickly purchase the other volumes, cancel all appointments, turn off the phone, give up on facebook, and listen with awe and keen interest to John Rowe read Marcel Proust. what more could a book and an audiobook deliver?! the time is most definitely not lost. ohmygoodness.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Phillip
  • Lilyfield, Australia
  • 02-17-10

Perfect for walking

One of the things I love about audiobooks is listening to them as I walk. I think this audiobook is perfectly suited to walking, as Proust is often describing his thoughts as he walks. I have downloaded other versions of Swan's way, but this one is the best. The narrator is a little fast sometimes, however given the length - this is not much of a problem. Overall, this is highly recommended and I have totally enjoyed it!

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Caryl
  • Port Louis, MauritiusMauritius
  • 05-12-10

What a pleasure!

Having lost my energy to read Proust a couple of times in the past I am thrilled to have discovered the audible version. The narrator is superb, weaving those amazingly long sentences into a web that mesmerizes the listener while subtly clarifying meaning. What a pleasure this is! Thank you Audible.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Eyrun
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • 10-21-11

Timeless Proust

Swann's Way is my favorite part of this great work and I will never get enaugh of it.
It's a major revelation to discover Proust and there is so much of him! I must say though that I might have missed him if it weren't for audiobooks. The book is a bit overwhelming so it's lovely to be intoduced to the work by having it read for you.
I have listened to the abridged version of Remembrance of Things Past for years now; I always have some part of it in my iPod. I didn't know how I would like it with another narrator but John Rowe's reading suits the story very well.
Just look at the cover; isn't it wonderful to have the oppertunity to jump it to this picture and wallow in it?

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • Canberra, Australia
  • 08-10-12

A masterpiece beautifully read

Would you listen to Remembrance of Things Past again? Why?

Yes. The language is so rich, the ideas so prescient, the characters so vibrant, I am already listening to passages over again.

What does John Rowe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It's fascinating to see where John Rowe places his emphases, his pauses, his intonation, without over milking the text. A truly impressive reading.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 08-03-12

Greater writing probably does not exist.

How can I write a review of Proust’s seminal work without sounding like some kind of blabbering idiot? This is one of the most profound books in all of literature. My goal this year was to read 80 books but I could spend an entire year reading, rereading and pondering between the covers of just this one masterpiece. Of this the Publisher’s Summary: “In this first part, Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing, and, at times, comic portrait of French society at the close of the 19th century, and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love.” That’s almost as bad as anything I could write. The book was at times about a profound vision of obsessive love to be sure but it was so much more. About French society at the close of the 19th century? Maybe; I wouldn’t know; I hardly noticed. For me, the book stood out for its words, the use of words, the language, the prose itself. That was the layer I got stuck in and never seemed to have emerged from. The words were often melodious; sentences were fraught with musicality. Though nothing exactly like a poem, the words did flow in a rhythm but more like that of the ocean’s rise and fall, a natural ebb and flow, not like that of the forced meter of a poem.

Within the chapters, one could contemplate or meditate for extended periods of time on singular sentences. And what sentences some of them were. Some were the longest I have ever encountered in any book but they always made sense and always stood perfectly as they were. And no, Sister Mary (grammar school English composition teacher), they were never run-on sentences. The author never takes such license. The description of a meditation only begins to purport Proust’s familiar visions rooted in the here and now. These seemingly endless sentences had the effect of drawing me in to the fathomless depths of the space between two breaths.

Obviously, it was, at least for me, not a book to be taken lightly or read nonchalantly. It was a book that at times required a certain dedication to and enthusiasm for to read. This is not a book for everyone but one that everyone interested in great literature should at least attempt. Had it not been summer and my workload less than strenuous, I might not have appreciated this book as much as I did. For me, I had to pay attention but when I did, it was a trip into my mind that only a few authors have had the ability to take me on.

Having read and now listened to this volume, I found the experiences to be quite different and each with its own merit. With a book in hand, I could more easily reread passages. With an audiobook, it sometimes felt like I could more easily internalize and be transported by both author and narrator. The narrator, in this case John Rowe, was nothing shy of outstanding in his delivery. I am so glad that he is available for the remainder of the series.

In the interest of time and space and because I could never do justice in a review to the writing’s of this master, the following is an excerpt from perhaps the most often quoted part of the book on remembering the taste of a pastry and tea. The rest of the passage can be found here:

“Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?

I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, then a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the truth I am seeking lies not in the cup but in myself. The drink has called it into being, but does not know it, and can only repeat indefinitely, with a progressive diminution of strength, the same message which I cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call it forth again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It alone can discover the truth. But how: What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking and where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.”

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • McCoffee
  • Pretoria, South Africa
  • 04-08-14

Can't get tired of this

Yeah, it's long. But I go back when I drift off during a sentence or paragraph. Nobody creates a whole life like and universe like Proust. Great narration. I'm wondering if I should try the Neville Jason narration for other books, but I'm reluctant because John Rowe is so good. Recommendation to those who have second thoughts about starting Proust: Jump in. No harm in listening to other books while you do this one. Let the whole series take you a year or two or three. It's your life, let it be your pace.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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This is only Part 1!

The wording on this is unclear. This is Part 1, which, when you download it, has Part 1 and Part 2. However, there is a Part 2, which also has Part 1 and Part 2 (and costs more money). I bought the first and was surprised when the book seemed to end in mid-sentence (as if you could tell with Proust). I see now there there is another version including the whole book for half the price. I don't know whether this one is better, but the narrator is good, so perhaps it is.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Mesmerizing narrative and performance

I have at least two copies of Remembrance of Things Past in my library. Some day, some day I was to read it. I have listened to this first section of Swann's Way, and now onto the 2nd "half." The author's insight is fascinating. There are moments that are positively electric, yet nothing is "happening." I cannot imagine a better performance.
I find that I have to take breaks and turn to other books after several hours (days) of listening. To think, I might have missed this classic.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Proust isn't for sissies

What made the experience of listening to Remembrance of Things Past the most enjoyable?

It took me three years to get through those three volumes, and listening to it will only take about half as long. I like stories that take a long time to tell, and that don't rush the plot or the character development.

What other book might you compare Remembrance of Things Past to and why?

The Magic Mountain. These are books that take forever to get through because they are so dense, but in a good way. And rereading them is like reading them for the first time.

Which character – as performed by John Rowe – was your favorite?

Probably Sidonie Verdurin. She was a pretentious phony, but she knew how to get what she wanted.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Swann knew that Odette was cheating on him but he couldn't bring himself to go into the house where she was with her lover and confront her. At the same time, he couldn't leave either. Swann usually got on my nerves, but this scene made me feel a little sorry for him

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  • Ms. Cf Dunmore
  • 10-30-16

A Masterpiece

Proust's writing is exquisitive. This is the most consuming, sensual, imagery-dense novel I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The novelist's insight and understanding of human nature is compelling. I want to live in France and drink tea and eat madeleines, while reading this over and over again.

John Rowe's narration is glorious (I listened as I read the book). Rowe made a dense text captivating and accessible. I could listen to him reading for many more hours.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • mancbella
  • 06-21-15

Surprisingly good!

Would you listen to Remembrance of Things Past again? Why?

I only listened to one part of this - the story of Swann falling in love with Odette de Crecy - which was absolutely brilliant. I have to be honest - I ditched it after that - life's too short, etc etc.

What did you like best about this story?

It's so well written and observed.

Have you listened to any of John Rowe’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, but I would. He's very good.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes! Swann is unlikeable but you can't help but pity him when he gets a taste of his own medicine.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • steven
  • 08-26-14

Attraction despite no action

This has often been called the greatest book ever written. There is a play on words because it is indeed great – Part 2 alone makes War and Peace look like a pamphlet. I read only the first book of the first tome – Swann’s Way. But it is great literature even in translation.

Where else can an author spend most of the first hundred pages on the thoughts of a boy deciding whether or not to get out of bed? Where else can an entire chapter be dedicated to the author’s recollection of a single type of flower?

Proust’s imagery and imagination are simply beyond equal. His evocation (for example) of flowers, smells, sights, village people, emotions from (his) childhood are fascinatingly real and engrossing. His eye for detail is matched only by his command of language which paints vast landscapes and microscopic grains of pollen with equal panache.

There is almost no plot, yet the characters are fascinating and the book is compelling because one is allowed to observe a great master at work.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • 12-29-17


What did you like most about Remembrance of Things Past?

I'd strongly recommend this edition as a great way into Proust's literary epic work - it's far easier to listen to and take in than the Neville Jason vserion. I would recommend this performance every bit as highly as Jim Norton's superlative reading of Joyce's Ulysses.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The Narrator is never definitively named, but his account of growing up, learning about art, participating in society, and falling in love is the central narrative amid his observations of the huge cast of supporting chracters he candidly observes through the book.

What does John Rowe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I'd already bought the Neville Jason readings of the whole series, and found it pretty heavy going. But now, having heard the John Rowe version, it's clear that this was down to Mr Jason's rather pompous and dreary delivery. The text is pretty densely written, and pretty hard to take in on the page. But John Rowe brings it to life brllliantly with this natural-sounding reading - just compare the audio samples from the different versions and you'll hear the difference for yourself.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

You couldn't possibly listen to Swann's Way in a single sitting. It's more a book that you can dip into and out of - the language is so rich, it's like swimming in chocolate

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  • M.
  • 01-14-17

glorious reading brings vibrant life to text

Where does Remembrance of Things Past rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Definitely in the top 20 mainly because of John Rowe^s reading

What other book might you compare Remembrance of Things Past to, and why?

Storyline - none similar enough to compare
Reading - readings by Kenneth Branagh and Juliet Stevenson

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, too long, and too good. Wanted to hear every word. Story was secondary.

Any additional comments?

Please could you ask John Rowe to record the other volumes in the series

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  • osama
  • 02-24-17

Rich, descriptive, colorful, deep, very slow paced

I enjoyed the first part, things afterwards became very slow and deeply descriptive. not my style.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful