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Customer Review

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad but beautiful, 10 April 2010
This review is from: The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Paperback)
I very nearly abandoned this book at around page 50 when I hit a particularly philosophical patch and the musings on the meaning of life, art and literature were whistling over my head. However, something drew me back to it and I'm glad I persevered.

Of the two main characters, Renee cuts a very lonely figure; she's only 54 but she hides her intelligence and compassion behind a dowdy, prickly exterior (no prizes for guessing where the title of the book comes from). She has some acerbic observations to make about some of the residents of the apartment building where she works as a consierge who, despite their left-wing socialist leanings, act like she's invisible until they want her to take in a parcel, water their plants etc. Her only friends are her fat ginger cat Leo (named after her hero Tolstoy) and the Portuguese cleaning lady Manuela, that is until an enigmatic Japanese gentleman moves into the building and begins to coax Renee out of her shell.

Twelve-year-old Paloma, a resident of the apartment block, has a brand of world-weary cynicism which is by turns funny and endearing, particularly when aimed at her vacuous sister and interfering mother. She spots a kindred spirit in Renee and the two form an unlikely but very touching friendship.

There are numerous philosophical interludes dotted randomly throughout the book which frankly went way over my head, but I found I could skim them and still follow Renee and Paloma's stories. I don't know if I missed out on any deep and meaningful messages, but I was more than happy with what I did read. The message from me is 'Persevere', as I found it a rewarding, darkly humorous story about loneliness and friendship.
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