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The (Future) Vista Cañas Library

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

(1 customer review)

Author: Muriel Barbery

Length: 325 pages
Type: Fiction
Genre: Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction, General, Literary

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“In an elegant hôtel particulier in Paris, Renée, the concierge, is all but invisible–short, plump, middle-aged, with bunions on her feet and an addiction to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she’s everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in an upscale neighborhood. But Renée has a secret: she furtively, ferociously devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor, she scrutinizes the lives of the tenants–her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth.

Paloma is a twelve-year-old who lives on the fifth floor. Talented and precocious, she’s come to terms with life’s seeming futility and decided to end her own on her thirteenth birthday. Until then, she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop culture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide their true talents and finest qualities from a world they believe cannot or will not appreciate them. But after a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building, they will begin to recognize each other as kindred souls, in a novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us, and ‘teaches philosophical lessons by shrewdly exposing rich secret lives hidden beneath conventional exteriors'”


1 review for The Elegance of the Hedgehog

  1. Janet Dore

    Sometimes a book finds you. Something in the universe (a higher power?) knows it’s time that you read it…and it manages to land in your lap. I was working in the library and a woman slid this book across the counter toward me. She looked pained and asked “Are you familiar with this book?” (I wasn’t.) “I was supposed to read it for my book group. I really tried, but I just couldn’t get into it.” Well, there it was…a challenge. As she walked away, I started judging the cover. I saw that the book was French (I visit my “adopted” French sister there often and have been in a 8 year struggle to learn the language.), I saw that it received several French book awards (based on my past experience, this either means I’ll love it or I’ll hate it.), I read the synopsis and was immediately intrigued. I checked it out and made plans to start it the next day. When I got home, I checked out the reviews on Goodreads…not a whole lot of middle ground. It was clear I either going to love it or hate it.

    From the very beginning, this book grabbed me. I believe I even gasped a little as I read a passage while getting my French pedicure in my little upscale suburb. By the end of the book, it was confirmed…I was Paloma (although I am MUCH older and not nearly as intelligent!). I finished the book last night with tears streaming down my face. If I was arrogant, I would swear that the author wrote this book just for me…to confirm everything that I had been intensively thinking, feeling, and deciding for the last month. I felt proud that I had made the decisions to live my life in the way the two characters conclude on BEFORE I read the book.

    Will the average reader like this book? Probably not. It’s very intellectual, very judgmental (for a reason that will become clear by the end) and dominated by philosophizing rather than storytelling. But, I would give it a try…you might just be one of the other people the author wrote it for.

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