Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Hedgehog Syndrome, 2 May 2010
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This review is from: The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Hardcover)
I picked up from a really useful amazon review that this is a phrase used in France to describe a person who crosses the road for no known reason; inevitably used symbolically at the end of `The Elegance of the Hedgehog'. Thank you `Sal' from France. Clever! Well, the whole book is indubitably clever and I'm not so much into overly pretentious seeming and potentially excluding writing. So I say that I enjoyed this book very much - in parts. And those parts really made the reading experience worthwhile, thankfully.

I liked the camaraderie and sparkling dialogue around Renee's table in her `lodge', a word that kept reminding me beavers and otters - which rather suits Madame Renee Michel. I was glad that she had the wonderful Manuela as a friend and that profound thinker Paloma tracked her way down to the lodge to find her salvation. I enjoyed the charming, kind, Fairy Godfather Kakuro Ozu and his renovation of the Monsieur Arthen's apartment; this work sounded absolutely gorgeous and was described so temptingly. Perhaps apart from the loo flushing music; however the gales of laughter it inspired were well worth its inclusion.

There is an element of farce bestowed by the running up and downstairs, opening doors, watchful, social climbing neighbours and the scene where Renee, unrecognised, and Mr. Ozu merrily set off together arm in arm for their celebration dinner. The same happens when Renee visits the dry cleaner and happily accepts the wrong dress. The callers at the door of the lodge, which was occasionally shut in their faces, also contributed to the feeling of a Brian Rix farce in rollicking full swing. I am considering leaving for our book club to discuss this book armed with a basket filled with macaroons, whisky tarts, tuiles, madeleines, "Gloutofs" "Nun's farts" whatever they are, all in pretty tissue paper.. How Renee would have enjoyed a Book Club.

Some characters spring to life more convincingly than others. Olympe is a star, who wouldn't want her as a neighbour and friend. The cat Leo and Neptune the dog I loved. Paul Nguyen was comfortably friendly and well mannered. Others stayed flat on the page. I could have done without Colombe's thesis.

The themes involving layers of class, the servant relationship and the giving up of hope were well drawn and helpful. Some of the philosophical thinking touched a nerve but other paragraphs of flowery prose just flowed by. The love of language, grammar and punctuation was admirable and a reminder of lost perfections.

Muriel Barbery has written an enormous best seller. The reviews are really mixed so this book appeals to some a lot and a lot just some.
It has a quality of difference and depth that make it intriguing and exotic. It is easy to get involved with Renee who saw herself as old and beyond love at 54. By peasant standards, to which she holds firm, that is old. Hopefully though not by modern day women!
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