The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery Paperback Book


Rent The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Author: Muriel Barbery

Format: Quality Paperback, Unabridged-CD

Publisher: Europa Editions

Published: Sep 2008

Genre: Fiction - Literary

Retail Price: $17.00

Pages: 336


The enthralling international bestseller.

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renee, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renee is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.

Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renee hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renee's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

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BookLender review by Cherie on 2009-12-31 13:47:17

I despised this book. The first third of it seems to be Barbery's attempt to showcase her intellect and her limited knowledge of philosophy, ironically criticizing pretentiousness while wallowing in it. The two narrators are both snobbish and self-absorbed in their own unique and horrifying ways, and I'm not sure why anyone would care about either one of them. The ending is jarring and seems to contradict the quasi-philosophical message established through the first 90 of the book. I ended the book thinking, Well, that was totally pointless. Don't get me wrong--I don't have a problem with tragic endings, provided that they grow organically out of the plot, but in this case, the tragedy seemed out of place, as if perhaps Barbery couldn't think of how else to resolve her novel and took a swift, easy, and brutish way out, rather than providing a thoughtful and meaningful ending. Seriously--don't waste your time on this book, unless you're a masochist who just enjoys feeling frustrated and depressed.

BookLender review by J. Marie on 2009-12-15 19:22:20

You can read how good the novel is ack, so good!, but I'd like to mention how well the narrators do. Not only is the feeling brought across well, but you can always hear them well. It is not always so on some of the audio books I've heard.