Steven Ramirez's Reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read January 31, 2020.

In The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a lot can happen when a middle-aged concierge and a precocious twelve-year-old girl connect thanks to the influence of a retired Japanese businessman. The fact that both the widow and the girl are well read does nothing to assuage the deep existential angst they suffer from as they pretend they are as shallow and uninformed as everyone else. In less-skilled hands, the story would be maudlin. But I found myself often laughing at the sheer absurdity of the situation.

Despite my enjoyment of this well-crafted work, I couldn’t help but wonder if, in the real world, intelligent people are doomed to a life of sadness. The concierge Renée is friends with a Portuguese woman who is more wily than smart, and they do enjoy their afternoon chats over tea and cookies—the one bright spot in Renée’s life. But it’s the girl—Paloma—who doesn’t seem to have anyone, least of all her older sister. And because of this, she is determined to end it all—dramatically. It strikes me that poor people do not have time for such fantasies.

There’s a lot at play in this engaging book, which is mainly a satirical poke at wealth and privilege. The Japanese businessman, Monsieur Ozu, seems to be the antidote. He has taken up residence in the upscale apartment building recently and brings with him a sense of calm beauty. Though privileged himself, Ozu seems to retain genuine humanness that sees beyond rich and poor, well read and illiterate. Thank goodness for that.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Started Reading
January 31, 2020 – Finished Reading
February 2, 2020 – Shelved

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