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Proust's Duchess

How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siecle Paris
Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
Length: 29 hrs and 52 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

Regular price: $41.95

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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the acclaimed Queen of Fashion - a brilliant look at the glittering world of turn-of-the-century Paris through the first in-depth study of the three women Proust used to create his supreme fictional character, the Duchesse de Guermantes.

Geneviève Halévy Bizet Straus; Laure de Sade, Comtesse de Adhéaume de Chevigné; and Élisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay, the Comtesse Greffulhe - these were the three superstars of fin-de-siècle Parisian high society who, as Caroline Weber says, "transformed themselves, and were transformed by those around them, into living legends: paragons of elegance, nobility, and style." All well but unhappily married, these women sought freedom and fulfillment by reinventing themselves, between the 1870s and 1890s, as icons. At their fabled salons, they inspired the creativity of several generations of writers, visual artists, composers, designers, and journalists. Against a rich historical backdrop, Weber takes the reader into these women's daily lives of masked balls, hunts, dinners, court visits, nights at the opera or theater. But we see as well the loneliness, rigid social rules, and loveless, arranged marriages that constricted these women's lives. Proust, as a 20-year-old law student in 1892, would worship them from afar, and later meet them and create his celebrated composite character for The Remembrance of Things Past.

©2018 Caroline Weber (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

Proust’s Duchess is rich with intimate details of the extraordinary lives behind the carefully crafted public images of its three heroines. Celebrated names are dropped like confetti over the pages.... Ms. Weber has done a remarkable job of bringing to life a world of culture, glamour and privilege swept away by World War I.” (Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal

“A captivating triple biography.... Focusing on three alluring women who were objects of Proust’s fascination, Weber portrays in rich detail a French aristocracy threatened by profound social and political change.... Weber offers intimate details of their love affairs, betrayals, friendships, and rivalries; their worries over money and status.... She recounts vividly the plush ambience, dress, and décor of their châteaux and palaces as well as the parties and salons peopled by royalty, artists, and writers who mesmerized the young, aspiring, impressionable Proust. A palpable, engrossing portrait of three extraordinary women and their tempestuous, fragile world.” (Kirkus Reviews

Proust’s Duchess, Caroline Weber’s beguiling group biography of three aristocratic salonnières of Parisian high society in the Belle Époque...with sumptuous details, apt and amusing illustrations...and an enormous cast of the dandies, decadents, artists, writers, musicians and financiers...has succeeded much as [Proust] did in bringing that lost time back to glorious life.” (Elaine Showalter, The New York Times

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great story and performance

fascinating biographies of 3 captivating women and great french pronunciation on the part of the narrator. highly recommended

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Put me right to sleep!

I was so excited to download this book. It’s about three fascinating French women who were forerunners to today’s media personalities. But, with a big dose of style, elegance and culture. It should have been enthralling. Unfortunately, not.

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Enthralling, entertaining and brilliant

The back-stories to the three women who would inspire Proust to create the Countess In “In Search of Lost Time” are fascinating glimpses into 19th century France - and the first women who became famous for being famous (prefiguring today’s tabloid and social media stars). Weber’s superbly written narrative is rich in exquisite detail, grounded in astonishing research but above all filled with brilliance and compassion for women who used their opportunities to carve out lives worth remembering, behind the tulle and satin and chignons.