Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Genre: Fiction
Subject: philosophy
Setting: Paris France
Main Characters: Renée Michel, Paloma Josse, Kakuro Ozu
Series: no
Dates Read: April 8 - April 12
Number of pages: 325
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: Audio stockpile
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Foreign Languages

7 Rue Grenelle, an exclusive address in 'bourgeois' Paris is the home to two totally different yet similar characters. Renée Michel is the concierge who has lived at the address where she works for much of her life and Paloma Josse, a highly intelligent 12 year-old, who has decided to commit suicide when she turns 13 because she sees only that adults are forced to compromises, renouncing their ideals, and betraying the principles of their youth.

Renée lives a life of fear - the typical French Concierge is expected to be uninteresting and spend their time watching television - Renée is the opposite, a highly intelligent, well-read bibliophile who is interested in philosophy. Then another tenant dies and Kakuro Ozu moves in. Both Renée and Paloma befriend the newcomer and here is where the intergenerational communications on philosophy expand.

Without words they both appear to realize that each is hiding in their own way - Renée is hiding her true intellect pretending to be what is expected of a concierge and Paloma is hiding her intelliectual abilities at school so that she can fit in.

***SPOILER***Renée eventually shows Paloma that life is worth living because of the beauty that can be found in numerous different areas. Her tragic death at this point does prevent Paloma from going along with her suicide plans.

Normally I don't like the change of viewpoint so frequently, but in this book it did work. The characters seemed to be stereotypes rather than well-rounded personalities all in all. That said, I really didn't like this book. Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the characters, maybe the philosophies, maybe it was translation. I really don't know.

1 comment:

Mystica said...

Thanks for the post on a book which I have long wanted to read!