I got bogged down in Within a Budding Grove, maybe because I was trying to finish it at the same time as my last semester of undergrad, or maybe because our beloved narrator is kind of an ass in this volume of In Search of Lost Time. You know those students who always have something to say in class, usually to hear themselves talk? One of my courses had two of them, who gave opinions based on their own artistic sensibilities ("I don't like pictures with my words" said one once, it was really exciting hearing someone in their very early twenties decry graphic novels) and were very into being intellectual without some of the experience to back it up. The narrator, especially when dealing with intellectualism and meeting his literary hero, Bergotte, had the same quality of naive intellectualism. The whole process of intellectual discovery would have been more interesting if the narrator had been a little more humble, but his lack of humility is clearly a defining characteristic in this portion of his life. The narrator also discovers his ability to have obsessions with girls in this part of In Search of Lost Time. First it is Gilberte, the daughter of Swann, and then to some extent it is also Mme. Swann as well. Maybe if Proust wasn't quite as good as he was, these relationships wouldn't have come off as early as creepy as they did. While Swann's Way does not have an abundance of healthy relationships, the narrator isn't doing a very good job either in Within a Budding Grove. Between Gilberte and like with all young obsessions he has only a fond memory of it two years later and the three girls at the seaside, the narrator is already running through his paces as a little bit of a, as the kids say, creeper. This pattern is a toned down, literary version of so many young adult novels so is quite interesting despite the slightly uncomfortable quality of these relationships. The narrator in Within a Budding Grove is on the verge of a greater adulthood, since he is beginning to see the cracks in adult life though he is not quite able to process them in a way that allows him to operate outside of his childhood perceptions of reality. It's a complex exploration but probably will be my least favorite of In Search of Lost Time because of my general frustration with the precociousness (to be polite, he is a child to some extent after all) of the narrator.