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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  171,579 ratings  ·  19,851 reviews
A moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, 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 t
Paperback, 325 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Europa Editions (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
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 be…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)
Garden Gal This is not a small, easy book. IT IS a book for teens and adults who do not mind thinking as they read.
It is difficult to read at a single sitting be…more
This is not a small, easy book. IT IS a book for teens and adults who do not mind thinking as they read.
It is difficult to read at a single sitting because it will stimulate thought, and perhaps journaling.

I have read it only twice to date,and made discoveries on the second reading. Share it and talk about it with other readers.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  171,579 ratings  ·  19,851 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Jul 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 rated it it was ok
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 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 rated it did not like it
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  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)
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
L' Elegance du Herisson = The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a novel by the French novelist and philosophy teacher Muriel Barbery.

The story revolves mainly around the characters of Renée Michel and Paloma Josse, residents of an upper-middle class Left Bank apartment building at 7 Rue de Grenelle – one of the most elegant streets in Paris.

Divided into eight luxury apartments, all occupied by distinctly bourgeois families, the building has a courtyard and
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An expert, uproarious parallel play of two extremely astute yet heartwarming consciousnesses! There are so many quotable lines here, observations that are immeasurably insurmountably profound. It is a book of paradigms, life lessons, needle point philosophies arriving from two different backgrounds. The Point: no matter where you are from, you can attain an envious intelligence & plenty a poetic articulation.

About the plot must be simplified by simpler minds (my own, etc.) as: la femme francois
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: 1001, france
Another unexpected DNF for a book that I've been looking forward to read since 2014. Stopped around page 100 so no rating. It did not work for me because of the pretentious, hypocritical, snobbish characters who accuse others of snobbery. Plus they don't feel real. The most popular 4 reviews of this novel sum up perfectly what I disliked about it so read those if interested.
Apr 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: two-stars-books
2 " gee whiz...wtf do I say" stars !!!

Ok I am going to be cryptic or perhaps not ! The concierge, the little girl and the new neighbor upstairs will of course figure it out as will the multiple cats and don't forget those bloody camelias !

- Mama don't preach
-Get off the bloody soapbox
-Go on a date with Paulo Coelho (yes I did like Veronika Decides to Die more than this one)
- don't fetishize the Japanese
-pretentious prattle galore
-the protagonist is just as bloody snobby as the people she despi
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
"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
Oct 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 26, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Dec 28, 2019 added it
Shelves: classic, tragic-bs
A little hedgehog to cheer me up.


Literally no point in reading it. (view spoiler) I'm so angry. Perhaps I'll write a more helpful review when I don't feel like a bag of bones and tears.

**Edit 6 Jan 2020: I no longer feel like a bag of bones and tears. Mostly.**

Earlier in 2019, around February, after my grandmother's funeral and while I was in limbo as a job offer mulled over whether to retain their offer once they learned I still didn't have my d
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 04, 2013 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
Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse)
"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
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
My friend, Elyse, sent me this wonderful book, and I found it extra sweet that she sent me a book with a poignant friendship theme. This book was thought-provoking, and the characters were endearing, philosophical, and super-intellectual with crazy good vocabularies that kept me on my toes! Seriously! I'm at a loss of how else to describe this book other than to say I really enjoyed it. Thanks, Elyse! ❤️ ...more
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2016 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 it......you are smart.

Enjoyed the short/alternating chapters.

Loved the characters. True friendship.
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, translated
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
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-2016, favourites
“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
This was an interesting concoction. The beginning was intriguing, I was convinced I was going to love this book, not only because of its Frenchness but also because one of its protagonists was a precocious twelve-year old called Paloma. Paloma is the daughter of a French Minister and lives with her parents and annoying older sister in a very rich apartment complex. Paloma has a huge disdain for everyone around her. She finds everyone irritating, fake, stupid and/or ignorant. She's given to philo ...more
Lisa Vegan
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers
  • Fresh Water for Flowers
  • Cleopatra e Marco Antonio
  • I'm Not Scared
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)
  • Experimentul MAMATATA
  • Follia
  • Novecento. Un monologo
  • Silk
  • Изюм
  • The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)
  • Three Apples Fell from the Sky
  • Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue
  • La Vérité sur l'Affaire Harry Quebert (Marcus Goldman, #1)
  • Blindness
  • Per dieci minuti
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Articles featuring this book

The joy of reading is universal—that's why we're shining a spotlight on some of the most popular translated books on...
99 likes · 26 comments
“I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.” 448 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?” 427 likes
More quotes…