I think this volume may be the most laugh-out-loud funny installment of Proust's masterpiece yet.
If I had to summarize this volume, it would be that you find out that EVERYONE IS GAY. Well, pretty much everyone. The first half is about M. de Charlus, who is hilarious, and his affairs with Jupien and other men, but more interestingly how he postures himself to try to hide his "secret" which more-or-less everyone suspects. For the second half, M. returns to Balbec with Albertine, and he becomes obsessively jealous of her, and suspects her of both hetero- and homosexual infidelities. The Verdurins come back, having last seen them in 'Swann in Love' - and also Mme. de Cambremer (nee Legrandin) returns and respectively represent the "nouveau riche" salons and the low-importance old families. Both of them are very petty, and the cattiness of this volume is hysterical.
M. de Charlus calling Mme. Saint-Euverte's garden party a cesspool in front of her. When M. ask him if he is going, he basically responds "Are you asking if I have diarrhea? I can only imagine that people with diarrhea would go there - it smells that way."
Mme. Verdurin, upon finding out that M. is going to visit the Cambremers at Feterne: "Oh, do you like rats? Then you should go there immediately, the place is infested"
I'm finding it's really hard to rank the volumes of Proust - they all build on each other and have a sort of theme of their own. I think Swann's Way and Guermantes' Way are a bit stronger than this volume, but all are so inter-related and codependent, you would miss out on so much by reading only a few volumes! I'm really excited to move on the The Capitve and the Fugitive, but I'm afraid my first immersion in Proust's dreamworld is coming to a close! Who would have thought 4,000 pages would fly by so fast?!