Muriel Barbery’s Elegance of the Hedgehog

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Of course, I did read this book in French, L’élégance du hérisson and I absolutely loved it. I had read this author’s first novel (The Gourmet/Une gourmandise) and was not impressed, but this one is definitely a wow. The story is set in Paris and is told through two intertwined journals by a young girl and her building’s concierge who is in her mid-fifties. They both have a very critical outlook on what is going on around them, but also describe some of the people they encounter with a  great deal of humor and tenderness. Other themes explored in the book: class differences, the meaning of education, the difference between formal education and real intelligence, the possibility of love in later life, the nature and possibility of beauty in the world, the management of face and impressions, the true nature of cats, and many others.

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3 responses »

  1. Thanks for the pingback, and glad you liked it! I agree, The Gourmet wasn’t as good, though I liked it a little perhaps because I read it after The Elegance Of The Hedgehog. The food descriptions were great too, but I really didn’t like Arthens haha.

    • Hi! Thanks for the comment. I don’t get many, so you’ve just made my day. I always like to see what other bloggers have said about the books I comment on and I keep the links as much for myself as for others. It’s interesting to see what others notice that I didn’t pick up on and our different expectations of the books we read.

      Yes, Arthens is certainly not a likeable character. Isn’t strange that book and restaurant critiques often seem to portrayed as unlikeable people in books? An interesting parallel to real life though… There was a classic music critique in a Montreal paper who sounded particularly cranky in his columns. We always wondered if there was anything he liked at all.

      • That’s very true – I am often drawn to a blog post or review if it’s about a book that I myself have reviewed or written about, often to compare my views with those of others.
        I do wonder why that is that critics are portrayed in that manner – I imagine some genuinely are like that, but surely not all. It will be a dull job if you just hated everything, I’d imagine.

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