Gail's Reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
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Jul 31, 09

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, book-club
Read in July, 2009

I should note this book has an ending so powerful it all but erases any criticisms I make here:

Have you ever bought, say, a Blow-Pop, and you know how good that sucker is going to be, but darn it all if you don't have trouble getting the wrapper off (it's always hardest around the stick), and it nearly ruins the candy buzz you're anticipating? That's a bit like how I felt at certain points with The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

The plot (in a nutshell) focuses on the life of a down-trodden concierge, Renee Michel, who hides her intelligence until she's "found out" by the book's two other central characters: a new Japanese tenant, Kakuro Ozu, and a precocious little girl who lives in the building, Paloma Josse — (who just so happens to be contemplating her suicide).

Here's where my Blow-Pop analogy comes into play — just when I'd find myself getting into a groove with this book's storyline, the author would introduce a philosophical tangent by either Renee or Paloma (they take turns with the story-telling) that would a) hang me up or b) bore me. It's worth mentioning that Barbery is a professor of philosophy so it makes sense that, at certain points of this book, you'll FEEL like you're in her philosophy class.

My other gripe was the intellectual name-dropping in this book. There are references galore to books, authors, films, philosophers. While some you'll obviously know (Tolstoy, for example), others you'll feel out of touch with, which in turn makes you feel a bit left out of the story (like not being in on a joke).

These two paragraphs aside, there are most certainly redeeming moments to this novel. For me, most of them happened to come in the book's last 30 pages when, like a flower, Renee begins to open up and suddenly we have a reason to start caring about her and rooting for her little frumpy self to start living her life instead of letting it pass her by.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Evan (new)

Evan It sounds like you're reading classy stuff, and I gave up on classy for a while and picked up "The Vampire Diaries" by an author I read in high school. The books are 18 years old. And cheesy. Yum.


Gail Evan,
You must have missed the reviews I did for the first 8 books in the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series from a few months back. Cheesy to the core but SO compulsively readable! So yeah, classy stuff at the moment, but that's not always how I roll - ha!


message 3: by Evan (new)

Evan Thank God I'm not alone :)


Meggityb I'm in the middle of this book right now so I just noted that you reviewed it without reading the review yet. I'm finding it slow going right now but I plan to finish it....so don't say too much and I'll come back to your review when I am done.


Gail Okay Meg! I didn't put any spoilers in there. I'll be curious to know what you think...sounds like so far, we are/were on the same page!


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