Sue's Reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
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Dec 26, 11

bookshelves: fiction, library, philosophy, 1001-books, kindle
Read from December 10 to 26, 2011

I did not expect to like this book-- a French novel with a heavy dose of philosophy sounded very pretentious. But I found the narration down-to-earth and the philosophy incredibly tolerable, with the exception of a short discussion of phenomenology which annoyed me a little. The novel is very character-centered with little plot, but I was drawn to the characters-- Paloma, a bright but suicidal 12-year old who can't stand her pretentious and shallow family; Renée Michel, the concierge of the expensive Parisian apartment building where they live, who is an autodidact who fakes stupidity for the sake of fitting the expectations of a concierge; and Kakuro Ozu, a Japanese man who crosses class and age boundaries to befriend both of them. I thought the commentary on class and education was interesting and added a lot of suspense to the book. It was obvious that the author has a bias toward an Asian aesthetic-- all of the "good" characters in the book are drawn to Asian art and ideas. The "bad" characters are heavily steeped in Old World politics and class. It is charming and light despite the heavy themes, and it is lovely to follow the changes in the characters through the book. It is narrated in alternating passages by Renée (primarily) and Paloma. I liked the structure also.
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