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The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Rena', 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 to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Rena' is a cultured...  more
ISBN-13: 9781933372600
ISBN-10: 1933372605
Publication Date: 9/2/2008
Pages: 336
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.

3.5 stars, based on 418 ratings
Publisher: Europa Editions
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
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Top Member Book Reviews

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
reviewed The Elegance of the Hedgehog on + 50 more book reviews
16 member(s) found this review helpful.
What a stunning, gorgeously-written book! I've placed it on my All-Time Top 5 List without hesitation. The narrative perspective switches back and forth between a cranky, secretly-erudite Concierge at a high-end French luxury building and the genius-but-equally-cranky 12-year-old daughter of one of the residents, a Socialist member of the French government. With equal parts Ignatius J. Reilly'esque laugh-out-loud outrage at the world & people's stupidity mixed with a survey of modern literature and key philosophical ideas, this elegant book covers everything from profound ideas to the profound ways that people hide - from each other and themselves. The sudden ending actually made me cry, which was when I realized how invested I had become in the characters.
  • Currently 0.5/5 Stars.
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11 member(s) found this review helpful.
I chose this book as our book club read last month. The reviews were spectacular but I found this book difficult to read at best. Unlike other reviewers, I didn't find the characters engaging in the least as well as snobby, whiny and pretentious. I usually devour this type of book but this is one of the very few I couldn't even finish reading it. Of our eight book club members, nobody enjoyed the read and few wanted to finish it. Perhaps we're simply not refined or educated enough, but half a star is already too generous in my opinion.
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
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7 member(s) found this review helpful.
I really liked this one, although I did skip over a few of the more "abstract" of the tiny chapters. Paloma, the younger co-protagonist did come off as a tad too precocious at times, so I could understand folks disliking her for that reason; Renee, the other main character, wasn't nearly as over-the-top. Moreover, the supporting characters carry their own weight, not just two-dimensional props.
The book has been described as a "fable", but I'd say it's as much a parody, though there's a moral to the story.

Definitely recommended.

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  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
reviewed The Elegance of the Hedgehog on + 4 more book reviews
Such a lovely book. It is insightful, thought-provoking, uplifting and heartbreaking, but not in that tragic way modern fiction has adopted just to be shocking. You come away from the book feeling better for having read it and not as though it has taken something from you. Recommend highly.
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
reviewed The Elegance of the Hedgehog on
This was not one of my favorite "reads" although it was entertaining in parts. The author won many prizes for this and so I believe it was written well. The girl who is the main character learns many things about the dynamics of life and family.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
reviewed The Elegance of the Hedgehog on + 26 more book reviews
It's not often there comes along a book whose denouement leaves the reader saddened, but not saddened, but this is one such book. It is an intriguing story of the inner lives of two persons, a 54-year-old widow who is the concierge of an apartment building in Paris, and a 12 and a half year old girl, the precocious daughter of one of the tenants. The concierge, Madame Michel, or Renee, has secluded herself from the larger world and its hypocrisies; the very intelligent pre-teen, Paloma, is secretly planning her rather dramatic suicide. Barbery uses interior monologues to acqaint us with the thoughts and feelings of the two. We also learn of the various tenants in the building, in particular, of the 'new' tenant, Monsieur Ozu, a highly cultured Japanese gentleman and scholar, who enters, briefly but significantly, the lives of both Renee and Paloma. Un livre charmant.

Book Wiki

Paloma Josse (Primary Character)
Renee Michel (Primary Character)
Kakuro Ozu (Major Character)
Manuela (Average Character)
Pierre Arthens (Trivial Character)
Real Places
Fictional Places