Proust's Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris (Paperback)
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From the author of Queen of Fashion--a glittering look at fin-de-siècle Paris through the three women who inspired Proust's supreme fictional character, the Duchesse de Guermantes.
The three superstars of turn-of-the-century Parisian high society were Geneviève Halévy Bizet Straus; Laure de Sade, Comtesse Adhéaume de Chevigné; and Élisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay, Comtesse Greffulhe. All unhappily married, these women sought fulfillment by reinventing themselves as icons, and their fabled salons inspired generations of artists, composers, and writers. Caroline Weber takes us into these women's glamorous lives, showing us not only the balls, hunts, dinners, court visits, and nights at the opera but also the loneliness, rigid social rules, and arranged marriages that constricted them. Marcel Proust, as a young law student in 1892, first worshipped the three from afar and later met them and immortalized them in his celebrated composite character in In Search of Lost Time.
About the Author
Caroline Weber is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Barnard College, Columbia University; she has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. She is the author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie-Antoinette Wore to the Revolution (2006). She has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Financial Times, London Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, and New York magazine. She lives in New York City.
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
“Rich with intimate details of [their] extraordinary lives. . . . Weber has done a remarkable job of bringing to life a world of culture, glamour and privilege.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Extraordinary. . . . Not only a serious work of scholarship but also a riveting triple biography of three rebellious women . . . the first ‘it’ girls, reinventing themselves as celebrities long before Instagram.” —Condé Nast Traveler
“Engrossing and intelligent. . . . Skillfully guides readers through the heyday of fin-de-siècle France, unveiling its beauty and elegance, its cleverness and charm, but also its contradictions and inequities, its cruelty and wretchedness. . . . Both a delicious guilty-pleasure read and a penetrating, clear-sighted piece of literary commentary.” —The Yale Review
“Beguiling. . . . Sumptuous. . . . Weber has succeeded much as [Proust] did in bringing that lost time back to glorious life.” —Elaine Showalter, The New York Times
“A brilliant study. . . . Social history at its richest. It is also very, very funny.” —Edmund White, TheTimes Literary Supplement, Best Books of the Year
“Exhaustive, engaging, brilliantly researched. . . . A book that throws considerable light on Proust’s method. . . . In this artificial world, with all its flickering shadows, Proust watched as through glass, while the duchesses and their guests paraded inside, under the illusion somehow that they were fully real.” —Colm Tóibín, The New York Review of Books
“Dazzlingly well researched and compulsively readable.” —Vogue