- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Gallic Books (1 May 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1906040184
- ISBN-13: 978-1906040185
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 409 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Elegance of the Hedgehog Paperback – 1 May 2009
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‘Resistance is futile … you might as well buy it before someone recommends it for your book group. Its charm will make you say yes’ The Guardian ‘Clever, informative and moving … this is an admirable novel which deserves as wide a readership here as it had in France.’ The Observer ‘The novel wins over its fans with a life-affirming message, a generous portion of heart and Barbery’s frequently wicked sense of humor’ Time Magazine ‘A book of great charm and grace.’ The Metro ‘The book’s attractive, Amélie-esque Parisian setting and cast of eccentrics will appeal to many’ Sunday Telegraph ‘This breathtakingly singular novel … is totally French yet completely universal’ Good Housekeeping ‘Reveals itself as a version of the Cinderella fairytale’ Financial Times
About the Author
Muriel Barbery is a former lecturer in philosophy and bestselling author. The Elegance of the Hedgehog has gone on to sell more than 6 million copies worldwide and has been described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’.
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One point, though. I believe in the paper edition, different type faces are used to distinguish the chapters written by Renée and Paloma. This is not the case in the Kindle edition which can be quite confusing.
Set in a well-to-do Parisian apartment building on the Left Bank, our first narrator is Reneé; the deceptively clichéd middle-aged concierge, who listens to Mahler, reads philosophy and hides any inkling of intellectual curiosity behind her pinny and misshaped slippers.
A second occupant of No. 7 rue de Grenelle is Paloma, twelve years old and determined to get no older. She intends to die by her own hand when she reaches the age of thirteen, because what it the point of life?
Their alternating thoughts on the French class system, snobbery, ascription of value, sense of self and relative complacency in their own intelligence are thrown into disarray on the arrival of Mr Ozu. When this cultured Japanese man moves into the building, their distanced disguises proved not to be as convincing as they thought.
This is a pensive, mannered and well-constructed novel which weaves a gossamer web around the reader, involving you in concepts and characters you couldn’t leave if you wanted to.
I think the translation keeps closely to Barbery's original. There remains a bit of vocabulary so that it does have the feel of a French novel.
The other element that demonstrates its origins is the author's reference to and familiarity with philosophers. This reminds this English reader that philosophy is taught in French schools. For me, it meant I had to concentrate.
The heroine, a 57 year old concierge in a block of up market apartments, is well drawn. Her objective in life to remain unnoticed and unremarkable to pursue her reading. She is from a modest background and self educated, a sympathetic character amongst her mostly offhand, unthinking unsympathetic inhabitants. The exceptions are an 11 year old plotting her suicide and the arson of her parents flat; the young would-be vet who bonds via the aging cat. That is until a wealthy and renowned Japanese man moves in. He is targeted by the well to do women inhabitants but it is with the concierge that he makes contact and bonds. It is mutual empathy beginning with the naming of cats, hers, Leo, and his immediate quote from Anna Karenina. He has understood and perceived a woman of learning and fellow interests.
An enjoyable read.
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The book was in excellent condition