Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Ready? The last volume ended with Albertine's departure. After a series of letters, lies, and melodramatic gestures are exchanged between Albertine and YBN, Albertine is thrown from a horse and dies. YBN is informed by letter, and enters into a period he calls "Grief and Oblivion". After learning of her death, YBN receives her last 2 letters, in which she promises to return and reconciles herself with YBN. He proceeds to grieve, obsess over whether or not she was in fact a lesbian, throw himself at little girls (getting him into a spot of trouble, understandably) and find out several truths about Albertine, none of which we are entirely sure of. In the end, it appears that Albertine was a rather active lover, and in fact had a great many affairs, most particularly with her good friend Andrée. At first YBN is horrified, then scandalized, then intrigued (he doesn't mind as long as he can sleep with Andrée, too -- which he does) and then indifferent. Albertine was apparently also in love with Mme Verdurin's nephew, and was possibly going to marry him! Oh, and Morel helped her to "ensnare innocent virgin girls" (are you creeped out? Because I WAS.) Then YBN encounters a women he thinks is a prostitute Robert told him about who turns out to be none other than... GILBERTE! His boyhood pal! He goes to Venice with his Mamma, gets a telegram that he thinks is from Albertine, saying she wants to talk about marriage and that she's not dead (I know, WHAAAT?) but it turns out he misread it and read what he thought he wanted to read and it was really from Gilberte. YBN gets a letter on the train home from Gilberte, informing him that she's going to marry... dun dun Dun.... Robert de Saint-Loup! YBN's old bestie! Also, apparently one of the Cambremers is going to marry Jupien's niece (which we only sort of care about). Gilberte's status in society goes THROUGH THE ROOF, and the last scandal we uncover is that Robert de Saint-Loup is gay gay Gay, and he's having an affair with.... can you guess? Morel! The Baron de Charlus (St-Loup's uncle)'s old lover! Wow. Can. You. Say. Incestuous? These people really need to expand their social circle. Gilberte and YBN start hanging out again (just as friends) but she reveals that she loved him too (mostly not when he was in love with her) and starts to reveal a secret regret but then the volume is OVER. Cliff. Hanger.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here
OK, so honesty time. This was not my favorite volume, by a long shot. All the Proustian grief philosophizing and Albertine obsessing got a bit long-winded for my taste, and there were a few moments where I just had no idea what was going on (Gilberte is a prostitute? Albertine's not dead? Oh wait a minute... that's not right...) But, it moved the plot line forward, so I'm still excited to see what happens in THE VERY LAST VOLUME, volume #7.
-- My used copy of this book included notes by someone who simply identified as "SAHR" (I'm thinking middle-aged married woman based on handwriting, comments, and 4 initials). She also commented in the book, and I alternated between (A) not being able to read her comments (not very neat handwriting, as it were) (2) agreeing with her comments and writing the equivalent of "Amen, Sister" in several places and (D) completely disagreeing with her comments and feeling the need to write my comments in next to (and sometimes over) hers.
-- YBN makes up all SORTS of lies when he's writing to Albertine to get her back, but my favorite is that he pretends he has bought her a Rolls Royce and a yacht and that now he's stuck with them. At first he says she'll have to buy them off of him (which he knows she of course cannot do, since she is quite poor) but then he comes back and writes, "No, I prefer to keep the Rolls and even the yacht." HA!
Also, during their period of estrangement, he sends St-Loup to "discreetly" buy Albertine back by offering election campaign funds to her aunt. When Albertine references this rather ungentleman-like behavior, YBN replies:
"P.S. I make no reference to what you tell me of the alleged suggestions which Saint-Loup (whom I do not for a moment believe to be in Touraine) may have made to your aunt. It is just like a Sherlock Holmes story. For what do you take me?" Tee hee hee.
-- In several places, particularly the ones that involve Albertine or Morel, my comments look like this: "oh. Oh! OHH MY!" hee hee hee. Proust is many things, but lacking scandal he is not!
-- YBN decides he's not going to go back on the train from Venice to Paris with his mother (because he wants to find a lady-love to bring home with him. I know. Eye roll.) but he totally can't go through with it. He sits there on the patio and orders "a cool drink" and he's all, this is going to be SO GREAT. And then five minutes later he freaks out and high-tails it to the train station just in time to catch the train. Oh, YBN. :0)
Sentences I particularly enjoyed:
- "It seemed to me that my life was stained with a double murder from which only the cowardice of the world could absolve me."
- "The thought that we must die is more painful than the act of dying, but less painful than the thought that another person is dead." (I would say this is quite apt, except of course in cases where one is unfortunate enough to die rather a painful death. Slow or quick.)
- "Days in the past cover up little by little those that preceded them and are themselves buried beneath those that follow them. But each past day has remained deposited in us, as, in a vast library in which there are older books, a volume which, doubtless, nobody will ever ask to see."
- "It is the tragedy of other people that they are to us merely showcases for the very perishable collections of our own mind." (It's okay. I don't get it either. But I like the way it Sounds!)
- "In spite of everything it was for me the actual point of contact between reality and dreams."