Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: Proust's Overcoat

On Thursday night I got an out of the blue summer cold.  It was nasty.  I ended up leaving work early on Friday and staying in bed until Sunday.  I hate to say it, but when I am sick I am a big, giant baby.  Sweet Luke spent the weekend bringing me juice and flowers and fresh peaches and basically spoiling me rotten.  The good news is that I got a ton of reading done in between naps and moanings and groanings. 

Proust's Overcoat: The True Story of One Man's Passion for All Things Proust by Lorenza Foschini was a great book to read after hitting up the TN Antiquarian Book Festival last weekend.  It tells the story of Jacques Guerin, a chemist/perfumist who identified with the Marcel Proust and had an interest in collecting literary memorabilia.  He providentially met Proust's brother, Dr. Robert Proust, and spent the rest of his life collecting artifacts pertaining to Marcel Proust.  At the end of his life, he not only possessed many original drawings, manuscripts, letters, and first editions, but also Proust's bed, desk, shaving kit, and many, many other articles including the titular overcoat.

The book goes back and forth between the history of Guerin and his collection and the history of Marcel Proust himself.  I know basically nothing about Proust as an author, but this provided a good overview of his life.  You don't need to be a Proust fan to read it, obviously, but I think if you are a Proust fan you will really enjoy this one.  Regardless of my lack of knowledge, the book was great.  It's accessible, but still academic.  I learned about the time period, Proust's history, his contemporaries, and his impact on the literary world.  It's also a short read, at 144 pages, so the academic aspect isn't overwhelming and dull.  It won't be released until August 10, 2010, but I recommend that you add this one to your TBR list. 

Ideal for: those interested in collecting books or literary artifacts, Proust fans, history buffs, those interested in the Parisian literary scene of the early 20th century, anyone looking for a great academic story that can be read in an afternoon!

A million thanks to Ecco for providing me with a review copy of this book!

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