Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” as Want to Read:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  114,053 Ratings  ·  14,870 Reviews
The enthralling international bestseller.

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Ren�e, 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, Ren�e
Audio CD
Published June 17th 2009 by HighBridge Company (first published August 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Tina Siegel It's terrible. Nobody should read it, no matter what age they are.
Dolly I agree it is wordy and more like a reading assignment in a Philosophy course at the beginning. But as soon as the Ozu character is introduced, you…moreI agree it is wordy and more like a reading assignment in a Philosophy course at the beginning. But as soon as the Ozu character is introduced, you begin to love the three main characters. It's worth staying with it to the end. Listening to an audio version helps, while reading along in the book. Hearing the narrator's voice endears her to you. Stay with it. It's a beautiful book in many ways.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 11, 2010 trivialchemy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I recently had a brief relationship with a young lady who had studied philosophy at a university in southern California. The relationship was destined to be a brief one, as she left for the Philippines to join the Peace Corps just a week or so ago. On one of our last evenings together, she thanked me for something that I found curious.

She said, "Isaiah, have you ever met someone at a party or something who finds out you studied philosophy -- and then they just try to talk to you the whole rest
Mar 19, 2009 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: snobs
Shelves: maybe-it-s-me
My name is Renee, and I’m the first protagonist of this book – the hedgehog, as it were. I’m a 54-year-old concierge who works in a building populated by rich and powerful people who barely notice my existence. I’m also a closet intellectual and I frequently try to prove that to you by digressing into asides about philosophy, culture, and other topics. I alternate between sniping at the apartment owners for their snobbish indifference to my lowly concierge self (an image I strive to maintain at ...more
Dec 04, 2007 Isabelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
This is another moment when I wonder what is wrong with me... Everyone in France recommends this book! The premise is original enough that I was hoping the book would be a real find: within the same super high end Parisian apartment building live 2 misfits: the 54 year old concierge who reads Kant and Tolstoi in secret and a 12 year old girl with abnormally high IQ and suicidal tendencies. The first half of the book is an excuse for the author's long academic digressions on Kant, phenomenology, ...more
Jun 30, 2009 Eva rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NO ONE!
That so many people love this book makes me fear for the future of literature. It is one of the most pretentious, banal "novels" I've ever read. In fact, "novel" is too good a word for its bloggishly self-indulgent, smugly insipid meanderings. Actually most blogs are much more interesting than this book. The two main characters (the concierge Renee and the young girl, Paloma) are hypocritical snobs who accuse others of snobbery. This intolerance is forgiveable in a child perhaps, but not in a 53 ...more
Oct 14, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you are an artist, a thinker, someone who longs for more, an aestheticist, a dreamer, a seeker.... then read this book. it made me laugh and cry in a way that only a well crafted, well loved, well written book can.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I must admit this wasn't a 5-star read until the last 50 pages, which may actually make this a 6-star read. This book is beautiful for its underlying truth: we are all worthy of love, love that will surely be given, if we will but believe we are worthy.

My friend Rose, repeated the quote that referenced Renee Michel as being prickly like a hedgehog, but so elegant on the inside. For me, the section that spoke volumes was the Profound Thought by Paloma in defense of grammar:

Personally I think that
Mar 01, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you bite into this expecting a light, buttery, wholly unhealthy croissant, be forewarned -- it has some fiber in it, too. It’s about two unlikely intellectuals. One is a dowdy concierge in an upscale Paris apartment and the other is an unusual 12-year-old girl living there with her well-to-do family. I like how their brainpower comes through in their ideas and observations rather than from the author just telling us how “wicked smaht” they are (to borrow Chuckie’s phrase from Good Will Huntin ...more
Apr 24, 2009 Katya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
after giving this book a chance, i have decided that the only chance it deserves is to be methodically shredded page by page and subsequently dissolved, in its entirety, in a pool of ammonia.

the rampant fetishism of japanese culture aside (which is seriously so disturbing and surprising to come across in a bestseller that was written within the past 5 years), the plot is entirely centered on the interior monologues of two characters, two characters who are so unctuously trite and platitudinizing
Oct 22, 2008 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Even if I were to overlook the self-obsessed, banal philosophical discourses that dominate this novel, I would still hate 'Elegance of the Hedgehog,' mainly because its characters are contrived and unbelievable. The main character, a concierge for a luxurious Parisian apartment complex, is a self-taught expert in philosophy, art, and film, yet she pretends to be stupid. Her behavior is apparently explained by her conviction that people from different social classes should not interact or become ...more
"Philosophy is the disease for which it should be the cure, but isn't," said someone - possibly H. Feigl. To me, this engaging book is above all an exploration of what it means to be a philosopher. The author briskly dismisses common misconceptions: to start with, you don't need to be an academic, and indeed this may well be harmful. Really, being a philosopher is about having a certain kind of attitude to the world.

The two main characters, who alternately narrate the story, are both philosophe
I just finished the book and I suppose it is better to let it sink in before I do a review, but since I do not think the following statements will be altered by further thought, I will state them now. First of all I rhink many who read this book will say OMG, it's a fairy tale! That couldn't happen. Well I don't agree. I am not going to give anything away, so don't worry. What happens, could happen, although I agree perhaps not that often. One has to believe and one has to
Nov 29, 2008 Oriana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an absolutely breathtaking book. Just stunning. Light and airy, yet penetrating, with bits of soft brilliance on every page. My goodness, what an astonishing book.

There are two narrators. The first is Renée Michel, a middle-aged concierge at an extremely opulent luxury apartment building in Paris. She has spent her twenty-five years there cultivating a careful persona of low-class idiocy – leaving the TV on at all times, maintaining an unkempt appearance, speaking
Initial review: 12/11/2008 -

I may revisit the 5-star rating in a week or two, but after reading this book through all last night in a single sitting, it seems ungenerous to give it anything less.

Muriel Barbery walks the high-wire throughout - there were any number of places where things could have degenerated into mere sentimentality. Not to mention the assorted philosophical digressions. But the alternating narrators - Renee the dumpy concierge and Paloma the precocious 12-year old - are so ch
Jennifer (aka EM)
"this is the fear, this is the dread
these are the contents of my head..."

I've always loved that line from Annie Lennox's Why. This book is about the contents of two characters' heads: Paloma, the 12-yr old suicidal prodigy, and Renée, the 50-something cat-lady concierge. Be careful with these characters, and by that I mean: take care of them, for they are fragile, sad souls in need of understanding and in need, moreover, of someone--anyone--to see through their facades and see them for who they
Barry Pierce
I've had this on my bookshelf for years. That's so typically me. I'll buy a book tomorrow but I probably won't read it for at least a year. I don't know why I do this because, as is the case with this novel, I seem to be putting off reading books that I quite enjoy.

This is the first book I've read this year which teeters on the edge between the three and four star rating. I enjoyed all the characters in here. Of course I loved Renée. I saw a lot of myself in her. Which is odd because she is a Fr
Sep 18, 2016 Frankie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, france
I really loved this little book.

The only reason it is not getting 5 stars is because of some of the long, boring, and i felt unnesscary philosophical parts. Just droned on. Like I get are smart.

Enjoyed the short/alternating chapters.

Loved the characters. True friendship.
Aug 16, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Five stars for the philosophy essays, four stars for the actual plot. I have a feeling that the philosophy professor is dominating the novelist in this highly popular novel by Muriel Barbery, yet I have really enjoyed the time spent in the company of the two main characters: and elderly concierge and a pre-teen girl, both living in a high end Paris apartment, but at opposite ends of the social scale. Madame Renee Michel hides in the basement while Paloma Josse plays hides and seek with her famil
Jul 04, 2013 Cecily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A text is written above all to be read and to arouse emotions." Whether you like a book "is the only question that could give meaning to the narrative points of view or the construction of the story."

This is a French confection that is light and pretty and sharp, but actually much, much more skillful and substantial than it first seems. The plot is slight and broadly predictable, but it gently leads the reader along more philosophical lines, many of which probably went over my head, but which I
Dec 19, 2008 Del rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book. While reading, when I wasn't bobbing my head in agreement with the philosophical insights, I found myself consulting a dictionary to learn a new word or idea, or pausing to absorb and consider what I'd just read. I'll go through it again soon because I'm sure there's so much I've missed. The pages I'd like to reconsider are already marked and my next reading will probably be carried out with a highlighter. This is on my list of "best books read". Thought-provoking is an un ...more
Reading all the reviews for this book is hilarious. They range from one star and "this book deserves to be shredded one page at a time" to 5 stars and "this is the best book ever written". I will go half way and say 3 stars and it has good points and bad ones. The bad - at first it comes across as pompous and trying far too hard to be clever. There are long philosophical passages which add nothing to the characters or the story. The good - once the new tenant arrives the main characters all beco ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Maxwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, translated, 2016
Such a lovely story. The characters are pompous and judgmental but also totally endearing. It took me a while, about 1/3 of the story, to get into it completely, but then I fell in love. It's not often I underline in my books, but this one had so many beautiful sentiments that I couldn't leave unrecognized.


"Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single m
Miss Ravi
Dec 14, 2015 Miss Ravi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, 1394

کتاب را که شروع کردم این احساس به من دست داد که نویسنده فلسفه خوانده (به شکل آکادمیک). و بعد ویکیپدیا حدسم را به واقعیت تبدیل کرد. مدتها پیش کسی به من گفت رماننویسی که فلسفه خوانده با فیلسوفی که رُمان بنویسد متفاوت است. حالا مصداقش را پیدا کردم. موریل باربری در مقایسه با امانوئل اشمیت در بعضی از کتابهایش و یا پاسکال مرسیه با «قطار شبانهی لیسبون».
دربارهی کتاب چه بگویم که تقریباً من را به کُشتن داد؟ بس که روایت دلچسبی داشت و سیر جملاتی که در عین پرطمطراق بودن، جذبت میکردند و بهت لذت میدادند و چیز
Lisa Vegan
Sep 27, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy getting to know interesting fictional characters
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Some asides before the review: Ugh. One of my pet peeves is when books don’t start on page 1 and I think that this book starts farther ahead of page 1 than any book I’ve ever read. Enough said about that. Also, in this edition there are some mistakes: fourth and sixth floor residents get mixed up two times, the age difference/direction of the sisters was given incorrectly in one instance, I think. I tried, mostly successfully, not to be too OCD like Colombe, Paloma’s sister, as I am normally bot ...more
Feb 14, 2009 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One French word explains this book: "une deception". "Deception" means disappointment, but in this case, the word also applies to its "faux amis" (false friends) translation: deception.

After all the fuss I've read about this book, I expected something nearly transcendent. But instead "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" is predictable, overly politically correct and quite pretentious. Ironically, the main characters all disdain the snobbism of the rich, yet at the same practice snobbism themselves. S
May 26, 2008 Donato rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
[Italian translation of course!]
I give this one 3 1/2 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed the book -- the philosophical observations, the interweaving of the thoughts of the concierge with those of the precocious young Paloma, the idea that Art is important -- but, but... in the end, it just felt too, I don't know, constructed, thought out. Like I can see the author taking all the things she does in her own life ( drinking tea, watching Ozu, getting all spiritual and zen over art) and transferring it to
Oct 24, 2016 Sawsan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
مجرد الرؤية لا يكفي للمعرفة, العين ترى لكنها قد لا تهتم
هناك من يشبه القنفد لا يُرى منه غير أشواكه الظاهرة وبقليل من الملاحظة تكتشف ما في جوهره من أناقة لا حدود لها
قراءة جميلة تجمع بين الأدب والفلسفة
Clara Cuevas
Jun 08, 2014 Clara Cuevas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Entonces, lluvia de verano.
No me esperaba lo que sucede en las últimas 50 páginas y no creí que fuera a llorar con los últimos 4 párrafos.
Sin palabras, me encantó.
Si me permiten ahora veré a película.
Apr 10, 2016 Deea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deea by: Books, tea & more. Club de carte lunar.
Shelves: best-2016, favorites
“All it takes is one experience of being blind in broad daylight and able to see in pitch dark to wonder what sight is all about.” Indeed after you read this book, you feel that you can be blind even if your sight is alright.

I really liked the philosophy which is so present in its pages. It talks about loneliness, about how past dramas can put a print on our whole lives, about how much encountering someone whom we click with can change our whole existence. It talks about love, about genuine feel
Nov 26, 2008 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Molly by: Book club
This is a wonderful book. It took awhile for it to grow on me but once I got into it I couldn't put it down. It's a book about questioning the stereotypes we assign to others and about questioning the roles we put ourselves in. I would highly recommend this book.
Nov 02, 2008 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable, elegantly complex, brainy, huge-hearted, and ultimately MOVING book. Cynically, it could be called "Jasmine Tea for the Covert Intellectual's Soul" -- or it could be seen as a smart variation on a Bridget Jonesy chick lit wherein characters talk of true beauty, tea, Ozu, life, death, Tolstoy, and moments outside time, instead of men, marriage, and their weight. At first, I semi-resisted the super-smart "likeable misfit" narrators, but warmed to it once those characters came to life ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor
  • A Novel Bookstore
  • Broken Glass Park
  • A Frozen Woman
  • Monsieur Malaussene (Malaussène, #4)
  • The Most Beautiful Book in the World: Eight Novellas
  • All Our Worldly Goods
  • Cooking with Fernet Branca (Gerald Samper, #1)
  • A Very Long Engagement
  • Viper's Tangle
  • Hunting and Gathering
  • The Highest Tide
  • Kieron Smith, Boy
  • La grammaire est une chanson douce (Plaisirs secrets de la grammaire #1)
  • Le Cœur cousu
  • Stupeur et tremblements
  • Miracle Fair: Selected Poems
  • The Lemoine Affair
Muriel Barbery is a French novelist and professor of philosophy. Barbery entered the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud in 1990 and obtained her agrégation in philosophy in 1993. She then taught philosophy at the Université de Bourgogne, in a lycée, and at the Saint-Lô IUFM.

La timide et très discrète Muriel Barbery ne s’imaginait sans doute pas faire l’objet de l’engouement qu
More about Muriel Barbery...

Share This Book

“I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.” 367 likes
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” 311 likes
More quotes…