Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is a French novel translated into English. With that being said, it is VERY French. And I liked that. I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. It is a split narrative between 12 year old Paloma and 54 year old Renee. The most refreshing thing I found technically was the different fonts used for each author. There was no mistaking who was talking and that made the mental adjustment between the two narrators completely seamless. Why has no one thought to do this before??

Anyhow, Renee is a concierge at a very expensive apartment complex in which each floor is its own 4000 square foot apartment, of which Paloma lives on one floor. Both are rather ignorant of each other for a majority of the story until a new tenant, Mr. Ozu makes his entrance.

Paloma you find out in the first chapter is suicidal, but not for the reasons one would expect. She is very intellectual and has many great insights, but being only 12, really does need some expansion of the knowledge she has to turn into wisdom, and so in that respect it is a coming of age story for her.

Renee is a complex character who is easy to love but sometimes hard to understand. She has inner fears that even she is not comfortable discussing with the reader for a long time.

Full of expected and unexpected exchanges, humor, pessimism, optimism, hope, joy and sadness, it is a great book full of things to think about. Oh, and just so you know, with two intellectuals narrating, the vocabulary used is tremendous. You can usually gain meaning through context, but I chose to use my dictionary app on my phone to make sure I had full understanding and I learned quite a few new terms....but don't let it deter you from reading this great story!

I found out that a movie was made in 2009 of this book, and it is available with English subtitles. I am anxious to see if my library can get a hold of it so I can watch it!

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