This is a preliminary reading to another preliminary reading to a final reading. The final objective is Proust’s entire À la recherche du temps perdu (Visit Group http://www.goodreads.com/group/list/3593962). The immediate preliminary reading is [b:Marcel Proust: A Life|1258289|Marcel Proust A Life|William C. Carter|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1182310193s/1258289.jpg|1247105] with close to 800 pages. And this preliminary to the preliminary is, with only 124 pages and with half the space taken up by photographs, a perfect apéritif.I bought the book for the pictures, and these did not disappoint me but saddened me. The pictures are a wonderful selection of places and people. Some are photos, some are paintings, but it is such a shame that they all are in black and white. How could Thames and Hudson do this?The surprise was the text. Sansom has managed in few words to give a very good introduction to Proust’s life, to his times, to his fellow writers, socialites and lovers. Early in the book he conjures up Proust, convincingly, as the figure of an “excluded man” and proceeds to narrate his life touching on various aspects and episodes, such as his family, his finances, his health, his involvement in the Dreyfus affair, the relationship with his publishers etc…, as they crop up along the years. The last pages introduce some of the themes developed in his work, like the role of memory and how this can be best preserved in Art. Sansom is particularly acute at picturing the frame of mind that La recherche requires, and inviting us to start savoring the durée that will last, at least, the whole work. This was then an excellent introduction. So, I am now ready for the next Preliminary of about twelve times the amount of words. And then I will be fit for the sixty times more words of the final I think this book is out of print. I found it second hand.