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About the Author

Caroline Weber is assistant professor of Romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania.

Works by Caroline Weber

Associated Works

Paris Was Ours (2011) — Contributor — 219 copies


Common Knowledge



I am the person who grabs the history book, fiction or HF if I have a choice. I kind of wish I would have passed on this one.

Though I am not a "fashion-plate" in any sense of the word, this was a spin on Marie Antionette and The French Revolution that I thought would be fun. Some parts were, others were dry and overly long. One other reviewer said it reminded them of a dissertation. Agree.

If you are a scholar of French or Austrian history, go for it. If not, put it back on the shelf.… (more)
JBroda | 13 other reviews | Sep 24, 2021 |
Will fully admit to skimming through great quantities of pages in order to get through this book. The subject matter is interesting to me; however, I found the writing style to be extremely boring.
LizBurkhart | 13 other reviews | Sep 5, 2019 |
This dense nonfiction explores the lives of three women who Proust used as a composite to create his famous character, the Duchess of Guermantes, in [In Search of Lost Time]. Having recently read this novel, I knew I had to read this as soon as I saw it had been published.

The three women, Geneviève Bizet Straus, Laure de Chevigné, and Élisabeth Greffulhe, (I've shortened their names and titles significantly for convenience!) were staples of the French monde. They were known for their beauty and dominance of society. They were significantly different from each other, and Weber does a wonderful job of bringing them each to life separately. They do have things in common, such as loveless marriages, sometimes even abusive, and a shallowness that likely came with their focus on being popular. These traits were central to Proust's novel.

Geneviève Straus's first husband was the composer Bizet of Carmen fame. When he died young she never forgot him despite remarrying. She was an opium user, had a facial tick, and would often entertain in a comfortable but risque nightgown.

Laure de Chevigné was a descendant of the Marquis de Sade. She had an interesting way of speaking, using made up slang and also pursued typically male pursuits like hunting and putting herself in male circles.

Élisabeth Greffulhe was probably the most stereotypical example of a mondain superstar. She consistently made a splash at every ball with her eccentric and beautiful costumes. She gathered men to her, always having many men declaring love for her while she kept them at a distance. It seems she rarely if ever consummated any of these relationships, simply wanting the attention and adoration. She was a beauty, often compared to a swan and painted by many famous artists of the time.

Proust met these three in the order I've described them, at first being obsessed with meeting them and then becoming disillusioned with how boring he found their salons. Weber has written a book that strikes a great balance of describing these women and their lives with source material and also connecting them to Proust's famous novel as characters. She gets the balance between analyzing the book and separating these women from it just right.

I think this will mainly appeal to readers of [In Search of Lost Time], but those who have an interest in the lives of high society women in early 1900 France might also be interested. I loved it.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 715 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: nonfiction relating to Proust
… (more)
1 vote
japaul22 | 1 other review | Jul 18, 2019 |



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