The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery & Alison Anderson
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Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever. By turn moving and hilarious, this unusual novel became the top-selling book in France in 2007 with sales of over 900,000 copies to-date.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
100 Words or Less
I love this novel. And here's why.
Chapter after chapter is an opportunity to stumble across another beautifully written sentence or another unique perspective on the human need to conform to expectations. So many times while reading, I found myself drifting off into personal memories and thoughts, tangential but connected to the unfolding scene on the page. Any novel that jumpstarts a little introspection is a step in the right direction.
Read it. Think about yourself. Enjoy life a little.
This is a luminous story which leaves one grateful to be alive. It is about people, mainly two older Adult people and an adolescent girl all living under the same roof of a fadedly elegant pension. The author slowly develops the characters until they feel "known." The relationship among them is developed as is it were indeed occurring as the story is read. It is a delightful, intriguing, and promising friendship that occurs among these three unlikely, kindred spirits.
The ending may not sit well at first. It is unexpected, questionable, sad. But let the story sit a while and the ending is revealed as elegant and right. It conveys, without the need to preach or lecture, some very simple, important conditions of being human. The story reveals the elegance in our lives that is there daily. It is worth the examination.
A wonderful book exploring life's tender mercies. Also a brilliant use of the English language.