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The Elegance of the Hedgehog
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1001 book reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

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Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 4 stars

This is one of those books that I find impossible to review. The writing is extraordinary, unique, simple and beautiful. The stories of each protagonist are quite different. One is a highly-intelligent middle aged woman who works a menial job in an apartment building of the very wealthy in Paris. She hides her intelligence behind the job, allowing people to treat her as though she is less than they are. The second is an equally brilliant 12 year old girl who lives in the building and is contemplating suicide. Both of their stories are told in first person but in very different ways. The characters do not meet until the book is nearly complete, and this allows each of them to be developed with so much detail that you really believe you know them. All of this would often result in 5 stars from me as I am a big lover of books that are character portraits. However, the author dives deeply into philosophy (not surprising because she is a professor) which is rarely something I enjoy despite (or maybe because of) the fact that my oldest son is getting an advanced degree in the subject. The book is heavy on themes of art and beauty as well.

I will read this one again someday as I believe it is the kind of book that will grow in my esteem and that I will pick up on much more of what so many love about it if I give it another turn.

message 2: by Kristel (last edited Aug 27, 2019 06:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 3875 comments Mod
Read in 2010:
An enjoyable story by the French novelist and professor of philosophy Muriel Barbery. The story is about the concierge Renee Michel, a very intelligent woman who conceals this from the people who live in the apartment. Paloma Josse is an intellectual and precocious your girl living in the apartment. She is not very happy and thinks of suicide and burning the apartment. The two become friends and this friendship is beneficial to both. The novel is filled with a lot of dialogue on philosophy and the arts. Renee Michel is such a likable person that in spite of heavy doses of philosophy this is a very enjoyable story. If you love cats, you will also appreciate this book for Renee's love of her cat Leo.

message 3: by Diane (last edited Aug 27, 2019 06:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Zwang | 1206 comments Mod
5 stars
Read in 2015

I enjoyed the movie very much and I was sure I would love the book more and I did. The book is about three very important people. Renee, Madame Michel, who is the building's concierge. “How extraordinary that this loge which yesterday was of no interest to anyone seems today to be the focus of global attention.” Paloma, a super-smart twelve-year old who has decided to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. “Life has meaning and we grown-ups know what it is” is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe”. Ozu, a wealthy Japanese man, who sees Renee and Paloma as they really are. “So here is my profound thought for the day: this is the first time I have met someone who seeks out people and who sees beyond”. A plus, I forgot how the movie ended so in the book it was still a surprise to me. I would recommend this book and read others by this author.

Hilde (hilded) | 341 comments 4.4 stars
Read September 2019 for my TBR challenge

I agree with Kelly that this was a tough one to rate. I am also very fond of character driven books, which this one was. We really got to know the two main protagonists, and I grew very fond of the both of them. But I also think that the philosophy part tended to be just a tad bit much sometimes. Not a big deal though, cause overall I really enjoyed the book. I am looking forward to see the movie which my library luckily has available.

Daisey | 228 comments I enjoyed the characters in this book and the description; however, I'm in agreement with some previous reviews that the philosophy was a bit much for me. I think this is probably one that it was good I ended up listening to the audio because I could move through it more quickly than if I had read the text.

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