Heather Anderson Silvestro's Reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
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Mar 07, 12

Read from January 01 to March 07, 2012

Je ne sais what, but something was lost in translation! It baffles me as to why this novel occupied the NYTimes Bestseller List for over a year.
Granted, I loved the story's premise: Renee and Paloma -- two extraordinarily intelligent misfits who belong (sort of) to disparate cultures, classes and generations -- take refuge in each other's company, but only after years of parallel living beneath the same hotel roof, thanks in large part to wealthy Ozu, the building's newest tenant and a kindred spirit. But is he sage, paternal figure or future sex partner? Hard to tell.I also enjoyed concierge Renee's biting observations on Parisian social class.
But, my God, this novel was a chore to read! I would read gobs--entire chapters even--only to reread them as if for the first time, realizing my doubled efforts only after coming to an unfamiliar word or phrase that I'd already highlighted.
As for the ending, I feel cheated. Some deep, intellectual symbolism is probably embedded in the main character's death-by-dry-cleaning truck ... but it escapes me. I found it humorous and implausible. Humourous, too, that we learn of Renee's death in first person: "Peacefully, I die." Wha-a-a-t?
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