Thursday, August 20, 2009

BOOK: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, 326 pages

Dewey's Book Challenge

This was an adorable little book set in Paris and nearly all the action takes place in an apartment building. The concierge, Renee, is one of the main narrators, and she notices and observes the difference in the classes, intellectually and culturally. She does her best to hide her true intellect and adopt the stance of a lower class worker. One of the residents is a precocious twelve year old girl, Paloma, who thinks the same kind of thoughts, and it also in a very unhappy place in her life. She is chronicling her Profound Thoughts and Beautiful Movements in the world. When a new resident moves into the apartment building, a kindred spirit to both, their outlooks begin to change.

There is one chocolate Florentine left, which I nibble out of greediness, with my front teeth, like a mouse. If you change the way you crunch into something, it is like trying something new.

What I liked: the characters were touching, if a tad pretentious. The little plot twists were gentle, as was the whole book, and there may have been a little tear on my cheek at the ending.
I also liked the very short, titled chapters, which kept my interest. I like when chapters get their own title too.

What I didn't like: the philosophy paragraphs went on a bit too much, but were easy to skim over and for those more inclined, they could be interesting. I was more interested in the characters themselves. I couldn't help but think of Gilead, a similar reflective book full of ideas that bored me to tears, and yet Hedgehog was very cute when I read around the philosophy.

I smeared my lips with 1 layer of 'Deep Carmine' lipstick that I had bought 20 years ago for a cousin's wedding. The longevity of such a useless item, when valiant lives are lost every day, will never cease to confound me. I belong to the 8% of the world population who calm their apprehension by drowning it in numbers. (page 301)

I had this on 7 day loan from the library which always worries me, but I had no problem getting though the 326 pages, with 3 days to spare.

also reviewed by:
Gwen Dawson at lit license, caribousmom, Boston Bibliophile,
, Jenny’s Books , Musings ,


  1. I've been hearing lots of good things about this book, and I think it's time to get it out of the library! thanks for the review! I really enjoyed it. I haven't read Gilead so I can't compare, though.

  2. thanks for the link to my review :) Well, I hated Gilead too...but I ended up liking Barbery's little book quite a bit (although I admit I almost quit on it at the beginning, it eventually redeemed itself for me!).

  3. A teeny smidge pretentious. I agree - it was sort of off-putting, but there were other bits that I enjoyed so much, it mostly made up for it. I am hoping that she will write more books to get translated into English. I'm interested to see what pieces of this book were particular to it, and what pieces will be consistent across all her books.

  4. I had this out from the library but didn't get a chance to read it. I will have to borrow it again. :)

  5. susan - don't feel you have to read Gilead. They really aren't very similar, there was just the ramblings that were similar. I'm glad you enjoyed the review!

    wendy - I really liked The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it probably helps that I think Hedgehogs are adorable. I loved the ending too!

    charley - I had to wait for 3 months to get it at the library, don't wait that long!

    jenny - they were both a little hypocritical, as their defence against their loneliness. But the loveliness of the rest, and the friendships more than made up for it.

    kailana - I was so rushed, but I knew if I didnt' read it this week, it might be months again before I'd get the chance. It was adorable.

  6. I really enjoyed your balanced review of this book. I do love the title! :-)

  7. I wanted to read this every since I first saw it on Dewey's blog. As far as Gilead goes, I tried reading it. I really did. There are very few books that I don't finish. It kills me to give up on a book. But I only made it about 50 pages in with Gilead. Ugggg...what a bore it was! So many people love it, I'm glad there is someone else out there like me that didn't!

  8. This probably sounds silly, but I'm glad this has short chapters. I've been reading in fits & spurts and this sounds perfect for me right now. I have a copy (have had it for many months!) and am quite curious about it. It seems to be getting quite a bit of attention lately.

  9. I have heard different reviews of this book yet I am still somehow fascinated... not sure if it is the title, the cover... or just the difference in opinions that draw me to this book


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