Caris's Reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
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's review
Sep 05, 10

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010
Read from August 28 to September 05, 2010

I've only read one other piece of philosophy that attempted to parade itself as fiction. The Story of B. by Daniel Quinn, I felt, was a huge failure. By planting it in the fiction section, those who might have found use of it were denied. Of course, perhaps that's for the best. The book wasn't written well and left me feeling frustrated. It is no wonder that Ishmael, the “novel” preceding it, encouraged one crazy asshole to take a number of hostages at the Discover Channel headquarters, where he ultimately met his demise. I can personally attest that the media got it all wrong, as per usual: he wasn't a crazed environmentalist; he merely wanted others to suffer the way he did after sifting through Daniel Quinn's bullshit.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I am happy to say, bore almost no resemblance to the aforementioned drivel. It was almost as if Barbery was following Quinn around and scooping up the balls he dropped with the sole intention of setting them right again. Don't get me wrong- the subject matter of each book is vastly different. It's the approach I'm thinking of. There isn't a single thing in Barbery's work that feels overwrought or heavy handed, characteristics that, in my opinion, define Quinn's.

Please, scroll up and read the plot summary so that I don't have to repeat it here. Got it?

*this is me hoping that the plot summary (which I have not and probably will not read) covers the things I want to talk about.*

I really liked the similarities between the two protagonists. Though they are clearly divided by age and class lines, the are so startlingly similar that it took me a significant amount of time to determine that they were, in fact, two different people. I thought I was reading different chapters from different points in time, but I was mistaken, much like I was a few days ago when I was mindlessly Limbaughing* to Kristin. I was suggesting that contemporary novels depicting class struggles are really pointless. At the present time, we are enlightened enough to understand that wealth or poverty doesn't make any difference. And I also thought, thankfully silently and to myself, that such novels are an insult to the really great older ones that really had something to say on the subject, such as Great Expectations and Frasier.

If she did nothing else, Barbery did me the kindness of forcibly shutting my mouth, leaving me to chew on the canvas of the battered Converse All-Star I had been so quick to shove in my gaping maw. With an almost unparalleled elegance (to steal from the lady of the hour), she shows how much class impacts our lives. On top of that, she pulls in the past and puts it on display for this poor asshole to look at and say, “Oh shit. I was way wrong. Look at that, the past didn't just go away."

An homage to language and beauty, The Elegance of the Hedgehog does justice to every subject it tackles, from love to death, from affluence to class. Barbery has taken the profound and made it accessible. And the cover's pretty, too.

*Limbaughing – to shoot off one's mouth without giving any consideration to what one is saying.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Caris Fuck if I know. See asterisk.

Caris A saint, she is.

message 3: by kristin (new)

kristin I only vaguely remember the conversation about contemporary novels depicting class struggles. I questioned you, right? Because class disparity is becoming greater again and I feel like I should have said something to that effect.

Caris I think you probably just tuned me out as I rambled. It was the kind thing to do.

message 5: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal I can personally attest that the media got it all wrong, as per usual: he wasn't a crazed environmentalist; he merely wanted others to suffer the way he did after sifting through Daniel Quinn's bullshit.


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