“Evelyne Bloch-Dano’s Madame Proust provides a wealth of new details about Marcel Proust’s formative years and illustrates, as never before, the importance of his Jewish heritage. She does so by concentrating on the most important love relationship in Proust’s life: the great affection he had for his mother. Carefully researched, richly documented, and skillfully translated by Alice Kaplan, this book deserves to be read by all who are interested in the life and works of Marcel Proust.”—William C. Carter, author of Marcel Proust: A Life
— William C. Carter
“If the wealthy Weils hadn't married off their daughter Jeanne to Dr. Adrien Proust in 1870, our sense of the past would be very different. Jeanne's story, seen here—inevitably—through the scrim of her son’s immortal evocation of lost time, evokes the richly upholstered interiors of Paris in the late nineteenth century.”
— Rachel Brownstein, author of Becoming a Heroine
“Using previously unknown documents, Evelyne Bloch-Dano has made a first-rate contribution to our understanding of Marcel Proust’s mother, her Jewish ancestors and her family’s social environment. Highly recommended.”--Jean-Yves Tadié, author of Marcel Proust: A Life
— Jean-Yves Tadie
"Meticulously researched, Madame Proust offers a socio-cultural portrait of French and Jewish culture and how each intersected in Proust's lifetime. It not only explores Anti-Semitism, assimilation and naturalization of Jewish French Nationals, and the Dreyfus affair but also ably recreates the bourgeois milieu, familial and cultural context, and the physical layout of the Paris in which Marcel Proust lived. . . . Bloch-Dano's biography offers a sensitive, delicate evocation of the relationship Proust would describe as his life's 'only purpose, its only sweetness, its only love, its only consolation.' Madame Proust is a well-conceived and insightful tribute to a woman who lived quietly and whose ambitions and hopes centered fixedly on her family's well-being and her son's fulfillment."
— Aysha Somasundaram, Bookslut.com
"It is one of the many merits of this admirable biography of Proust's mother that it invites one to return to the novel with perhaps a fuller understanding of Proust's heredity, hinterland, and upbringing. . . . This fascinating book is full of interesting social and cultural observation, of information about French Jewish life, the position of Jews in society and, of course, the Dreyfus case. But it is essentially a study of one of the most remarkable and fruitful of mother-son relationships. As such it is a book that every Proustian will want to read."
— Allan Massie, Literary Review
"Serious readers of Marcel Proust are aware of how close the writer was to his mother. Now, through Bloch-Dano's touching biography of Jeanne Weil Proust, translated by National Book Award nominee Kaplan, his many fans can better understand that closeness. . . . Bloch-Dano's splendid book offers great insight into this loving pair and illustrates Jeanne's influence on her son as a writer. Highly recommended to those interested in Proust and 20th-century French literature."
— Library Journal
“A vivid, if highly impressionistic, account of the life of Jeanne Weil Proust, a woman who outwardly lived the life of a typical Jewish bourgeoise of the Third Republic, but who succeeded in raising France’s unlikeliest literary giant. . . . Madame Proust tempts us to read the big book in a new way: as the most fulsome possible answer to a mother’s wish to know what occupied her son.”
— Thomas Meaney, New York Sun
“Proust's relationship with his mother, like much else to do with this greatest of all novelists, was exceptional. . . . .Bloch-Dano’s admirable biography paints a vivid portrait of a sensitive, cultured, sometimes sharp woman. . . . Bloch-Dano confidently charts the rituals of the Parisian haute bourgeoisie which Madame Proust, as the wife of an eminent professor of medicine, observed, along with her part in the genesis of one of the glories of world literature.”--Angus Trumble, Independent
— Angus Trumble, Independent
"No one was more important in Marcel Proust's life than his mother. . . . By focusing on the mother, French scholar Bloch-Dano brings into relief the family's Jewish background, which the Prousts, like many French Jews at the time, downplayed in seeking assimilation into French society. . . . The limited number of sources available for the project . . . makes this book less an academic biography of Jeanne Proust and more a rich portrait of the bourgeois lifestyle in which Marcel Proust grew up."
"It is crucial to get the cultural and social facts of Proust's Jewish background firmly in focus before making claims about how they might have affected his writing, and Evelyne Bloch-Dano's carefully researched biography of Jeanne Weil Proust performs this task admirably."
— Robert Alter, New Republic
"A welcome resource for Proust's many anglophile readers, and a useful companion to the several biographies of Proust."
— Tony O'Brien, Metapsychology
"Madame Proust shows how painstaking research of literary and cultural information, finally synthesized and carefully evaluated, can result in illumination. . . . The book is packed with information that ranges from detailed historical backgrounds of individuals or groups, through the general status of the Jewish population in France."
— Lynn Hoggard, Southern Humanities Review