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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
325 pages

"They didn't recognize me," I repeat.
He stops, in turn, my hand still on his arm.
"It is because they have never seen you," he says. (p. 303)

Renée is a concierge in a posh Paris apartment building. She is a recluse, quietly tending to the needs of her wealthy tenants. They consider her inferior, and she plays up to the stereotype. But behind closed doors, Renée is an intellectual who reads Tolstoy, watches Japanese films, and has in-depth knowledge of art. And unbeknownst to Renée, a kindred spirit resides in her building: Paloma, a 12-year-old girl of extremely high intelligence.

For most of this novel, Renée and Paloma lead separate lives. Then one day, a new tenant moves in and unwittingly brings them together. And this marks a turning point in the novel. Beginning as an interesting and very well-written character study, The Elegance of the Hedgehog becomes an incredibly emotional work. In very simple and subtle ways Renée, Paloma, and the new tenant Kazuro each exert profound influence on their new friends, taking each other to unprecedented levels emotionally and spiritually. The last two chapters are some of the most moving literature I've ever read.

This is a beautiful book. I loved it. ( )


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
What a wonderful sounding book! I'm glad you liked it, and I am looking forward to reading it.
Apr. 17th, 2009 08:53 am (UTC)
I have seen mixed reviews for this book, but if you give it 5 stars then it must be great, as I know how rare an event that is!

I'll keep an eye out for a copy now.

Apr. 18th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
WOW! Five stars from you, Laura?!??! That almost never happens. And guess what - I have this book in my stacks and it just got bumped up to be read sooner rather than later ;)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )