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Swann's Way is Marcel Proust's literary masterpiece and the first part of the multivolume audiobook Remembrance of Things Past.
In the opening volume, the narrator travels back in time to recall his childhood and to introduce the listener to Charles Swann, a wealthy friend of the family and celebrity in the Parisian social scene. He again travels back, this time to the youth of Charles Swann in the French town of Combray, to tell the story of the love affair that took place before his own birth. The jealous love that Swann feels for the courtesan Odette, is a foretelling of the narrator's own future relationships.
Proust paints an unforgettable, scathing and at times comic portrait of French society at the close of the 19th century and reveals a profound vision of obsessive love. The remarkable details from his memory are the fundamental triumph of the audiobook; details like his younger self's desperate need for a goodnight kiss from his mother.
In 1922, Virginia Woolf marvelled, 'Oh if I could write like that!'
Many adaptations have been made of Swann's Way including the 1984 English language film, Swann in Love, starring Jeremy Irons, and a graphic novel by French comic artist Stéphane Heuet that was first published in 1998.
Whilst training at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama, John Rowe did his first radio plays for the BBC before spending several years acting in repertory theatre. He then joined the BBC's Radio Drama Company at Broadcasting House and after a three year stint on stage with the Prospect Company at The Old Vic he became a committed radio actor. He is well known for his role as Professor Jim Lloyd in The Archers. He has not only worked extensively in radio but also in television and film, as well as narrating many audiobooks, including Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust. His film appearances have included The Heart of Me (2002) and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001). He has most recently appeared on onscreen in the Netflix series The Crown (2016) and the BBC TV series Broken (2017).
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- Mrs C Sampson-Dunmore
BY FAR THE BEST READING OF PROUST
I'd strongly recommend this edition as a great way into Proust's literary epic work - it's far easier to listen to and take in than the Neville Jason vserion. I would recommend this performance every bit as highly as Jim Norton's superlative reading of Joyce's Ulysses.
The Narrator is never definitively named, but his account of growing up, learning about art, participating in society, and falling in love is the central narrative amid his observations of the huge cast of supporting chracters he candidly observes through the book.
I'd already bought the Neville Jason readings of the whole series, and found it pretty heavy going. But now, having heard the John Rowe version, it's clear that this was down to Mr Jason's rather pompous and dreary delivery. The text is pretty densely written, and pretty hard to take in on the page. But John Rowe brings it to life brllliantly with this natural-sounding reading - just compare the audio samples from the different versions and you'll hear the difference for yourself.
You couldn't possibly listen to Swann's Way in a single sitting. It's more a book that you can dip into and out of - the language is so rich, it's like swimming in chocolate
- T. ROBINSON