The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I have been completely engrossed in a certain book-turned-HBO-series that everyone seems to have gotten their hands on and have barely had time to breathe, let alone read anything else. George R.R. Martin’s saga is all engrossing and heart stopping so I’m on a self-imposed break. Which has nothing to do with the fact that my other half has made me swear not to start reading Book 3 until he has finished it.

Which means that I need to get a grip and focus my literary attentions on other things.

I’m currently reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Nomad, the follow up to her memoir Infidel about her escape from her family’s devout and unquestioning Islam. But I’m only about 40 pages in so I don’t feel comfortable discussing it at length. It’s definitely one of those books that you have to chew on for a bit in order to discover how you really feel about it.

But in the middle of my Game of Thrones marathon, I did manage to squeeze in a book that’s been on My List for a long time: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I think that this book might end up on my list of all time favourites, I have been recommending it to people left and right.

It is the story of a Parisian building concierge, Renee Michel, who in an effort to separate her life from those of her tenants, pretends to be what they expect her to be: a simple concierge who is dim witted and not particularly interesting. Meanwhile she makes smart observations about people and the world and harbours a love of Russian novels and classical music.

Upstairs, in one of the apartments, is Paloma Josse, who is the daughter of a wealthy politician who hates her family and all of their fancy habits and has made a plan to kill herself on her 13th birthday. In the meantime she has taken it upon herself to leave something great to the world – a journal of observations and brilliant thoughts.

It’s a bit of an odd story when you hear it described thus and you may not be surprised to hear that it was originally published in French as L’Elegance du herisson. But trust me when I tell you that the way the story is handled, the way language is manipulated and the honest tableaus that make up the sequence of events, make for a truly beautiful read that had me in tears long after I finished the last page. The story is still with me and if I hadn’t leant the book to a friend so that she could enjoy it, I would probably be re-reading passages of it right now. I actually dog-eared a few pages because I found that the parts of it were so wonderfully written, so succinct and delightful, that I would need to be able to find those pages again quickly for future reference.

Stars:  5

Grade: A+

4 thoughts on “The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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