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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
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  • Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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There are currently 4 reader reviews for The Elegance of the Hedgehog
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Elizabeth G. (12/22/11)

It's the Camellias I Wonder About...
Never mind commas, does she know what a camellia is? "In the flower bed there are some pretty little red and white flowers, you planted them.." (pg290). (Busy Lizzies?) "I'd have planted them all over the place....They are camellias.." (201). "He was stationed... over the bed of roses and dwarf camellias.." (pg 85) Must have been tall. Dwarf camellias can be 20'. Maybe the concierge bought a batch of mini dwarf cultivars from the Southern States? No. Would have attracted too much attention. Authorial passmenterie: she needed them to be camellias to thread in her Japanese theme. Also felt, having completed the work, she simply divided it, at times clumsily, between the 2 speakers. The different size print helped. Provocative though: "Art is emotion without desire." (Pg 200) Shall we apply this to the book? It remined me of Mischa Belinski's 'Fieldwork' in that , despite their graces, both are rehashed class notes
Emma @ Words And Peace (05/21/11)

Why I loved the Elegance of the Hedgehog
For whatever reason, I’m losing my ability to read French books; their language sounds now usually dull and pompous to me. It is a strange phenomenon for someone who has devoured so many French books.

As I couldn’t anyway find this one in French in the US, I listened to its English version, and oh, what a delight!

Of course, if you have never lived in an apartment building with a “concierge”, this book may be difficult for you to appreciate in its full worth and beauty.

The “concierge” is so often this very nosy woman who manages to know everything about everyone, and who’s often caught “spying” behind a curtain and all the comings and goings around her “kingdom”. I remember the most serious insult my mother would give to someone a bit too nosy to her taste, by declaring: “Quelle concierge!” (“she’s so much like a concierge!”)

So to remain true to the regular picture, Renée has this real “concierge” façade, symbolized and lived out in the 2 parts of her apartment: one with a noisy TV, set on a stupid channel, and a back room where she spends hours delighting in philosophy books and the like.

This facade will collapse with the meeting of a new tenant, and of a smart young girl, Paloma, disgusted by the wealth and low cultural level of her parents and milieu.

This book is full of wit and I laughed a lot, through the reflections of Paloma and Renée.

Through it, I also discovered Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas!

In a word, I believe this book has reconciled me with French literature.
My complete review is on my blog: Words And Peace
Dave S (05/12/11)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
A strange title indeed, but what a gem of a book! The author's use of language to describe her characters and story was engaging. While Ms Barbery's background in philosophy comes through, the humor woven throughout balances things nicely and creates a gentle flow in how the story progresses. This is a book to read slowly to ensure you savor every word.
Jane a (Lakeport, Calif) (06/12/09)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
I can't remember when I enjoyed a story as much as I did this one; I read it twice! The author's style was, to me, enchanting; I love her use of the language itself....metaphors and similes, in particular. I found Renee's sense of humor, combined with her intelligence, to be refreshing and thought-provoking; I would like to have had her for a friend. While Paloma has, in addition to her intelligence, the emotions and immaturity of a young girl, I felt that she will mature into an interesting and engaging young woman. The ending produced a true sense of loss, for me. All in all, a very wonderful book !
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