So many give up on this, let me express a trick:This also applies to listening to the opera of Wagner, by the way, but I'll explain that later.Instead of tormenting yourself trying to capture and keep in mind a fragile narrative thread as your eyes pour over, or rather have poured over them like a soft warm rain of word the many layers of description and thought that comprise Proust...Don't. There's not really that much going on that requires you to keep some fantastic cast of characters or events in mind. Just see the words, and "listen" to the music they make. Trust that you won't miss out, and remember the breathless quality of the prose is sort of the point. Just enjoy the colors and imagery instead of fretting over some mental abstraction you're struggling to remember. To a very large extent this book is designed to remove you from that abstraction, to wash it away from your memory, since memory and the illusion of your mental mastery of it is in fact a central idea of the work itself! If you fight that, if you refuse to allow yourself to give up the reigns to the master, you will not succeed. Proust will defeat you, and you'll give up. But you'd be giving up on yourself. Just allow the words to float past, or instead allow yourself to float past as though on a rafting trip where the banks are filled with innumerable flowers and trees of every shape and color, and all you can do is float down and try to gain some general impression, and get lost in your feelings about them. If you try to catalog every plant you see, you not only miss the point, but torture yourself and doom your endeavors to failure.This is as extraordinary a work as any of the luminous praise given over the years might lead you to believe. It's also frustrating and obtuse at times. I give it 5 stars by giving it about 9 and taking away 4. Oh, and Wagner? It's not Italian opera, if you look for arias and set pieces, you're going to be bored and "lose". Wagner the singers are advancing a plot, and the orchestra is the point. It expresses the back-story and hidden thoughts and desires of the characters. Certain themes occur when even one character thinks about a specific person, object, or even a concept. Listen for themes (motif) and listen to the glorious orchestral music, and stop focusing on the singers or the idea of an aria and you'll see why you should enjoy Wagner.