Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen is a re-read for me, after many long years. It came out in way back in 2003, i think, and that’s about when I originally read it. Kate Taylor, at the time, was a Globe and Mail personality, if such a thing exits. I remember reading it and loving it so much. I just wanted to talk to everyone about it. And I was also about mid-stride in my love affair with Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
Now, several years later, i still really enjoyed Mme Proust, but in an entirely different way. What spurred me to read it was my recent trip to Paris, and it is a rather lovely book to read while one is in Paris. The geography and Proust’s belle epoque shenanigans came to life for me as I wandered around the Marais and Palais Carnavalet.
But this time in reading Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen what struck me more than the story, was Taylor’s wonderful writing, and the parallels with Proust’s work. How did I miss that the first time around? Was I too close to the subject? Was I bogged down in the minutia?
The novel recounts three stories – one of Madame Proust’s worries over wayward Marcel, one of a 12 year old Jewish refugee adopted by a family in Toronto during WWII, and the third about a translator escaping heart break by retreating into Proust. The magnificence comes with how Taylor weaves the stories together and how they echo with each other and with In Search of Lost Time.
Who would like this book? You don’t have to be a fan of Proust, or even familiar with his writings, to enjoy Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen. But if you are a fan – wow. Taylor’s use of language echoes so nicely with Proust’s. But i also loved the book for the glimpses of turn of the century Paris, the influence of the Dreyfus affair, 1940s Toronto and so much more. I’ve also read Taylor’s A Man in Uniform, which i was also intending to re-read, but never got around to. It’s a more intensive look at the Dreyfuss affair. And much to my delight, it would seem that Taylor has another book coming out later this year.