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The Elegance of the Hedgehog Paperback – Sep 2 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions (Sept. 2 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372600
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.4 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #20,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
INDIEBOUND TOP TEN BESTSELLER
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

Praise for The Elegance of the Hedgehog

"Gently satirical, exceptionally winning and inevitably bitersweet."
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about love. But not the sappy, head-over-heels variety. Rather, it's about the love of one's friends. It's about the love you can experience when you connect with strangers. And it's about the possibility—but just that—of romantic love."—The Huffington Post

"Both [of the book's protagonists] create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renée with the erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio."—The New York Times 

"This fable of love, frienship and the beauty of art not only gives innocence a voice, but also shows what a powerful novel can do: transport, educate and, ultimately, console."—The Toronto Star

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a high-wire performance."—Los Angeles Times

"Hedgehog is really an international book, focused as it is on universal topics of childhood, philosophy, love, and art."—The Daily Beast 

"This story, like all great tales, will break your heart, but it will also make you realize—or remember—that sometimes the pain is worth it."—Chicago Sun-Times 

About the Author

Muriel Barbery is the author of the international bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Gourmet Rhapsody (Europa Editions, 2009).

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By Janet B TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 11 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Muriel Barbery is a Professor of Philosophy and you can see this in her writing. There are a lot of philosophy descriptions in this book which I found to be tedious. However, I persevered and finally ended up liking this book. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is different from any book I have ever read.

The main narrator of this book is Madame Renee Michel, a fifty-four year old widow who has worked for twenty-seven years as head concierge of a posh Parisian apartment building on 7, rue de Grenville. The inhabitants all belong to the upper class. Renee grew up poor and quit school at the age of twelve years old. Throughout her life she has studied philosophy secretly, always searching for knowledge. She has read Marx, appreciated Mozart, Dutch painting, Japanese culture, but most of all she loves literature. She lives alone with her cat Leo, named after Tolstoy. Renee is an unattractive woman. She is short, plump and has bunions on her feet. She is self-taught and believes that she is intellectually smarter than the residents. She is grateful for her job, but she keeps her intellectual side a secret. She lets them think she is simple and the perfect concierge, someone who lies around watching TV all day and blending into the background. But in reality, she spends her time reading, watching films and listening to music.

Paloma Josse is twelve years old and lives in the apartment building with her wealthy parents and sister. Her mother has a Ph.D in literature and is a social snob. Her father is a senior Government official. Her sister is studying for her Master's degree at the Sorbonne. Paloma receives no attention or love from her parents because they're too busy with their own lives, which leaves her lonely and unhappy. Paloma has a secret too.
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Format: Paperback
"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" transcends excellence. It is one of those rare books with a special inner quality that makes you ponder over life in a way only very few others can. After turning the last page, I was left staring into space, feeling bereft. I wished there was more to read, yet its ending befitted the whole tale. I now understand why it received so many wonderful reviews in France recently and why it became such a literary success. It fully deserves it.

Just a brief summary, as described by both main characters -Renée and Paloma - introducing themselves in the beginning of the book, which is written in a diary form by each.
Paris, present day. Renée is the widowed concierge of an elegant building in an exclusive area. Its inhabitants all belong to the upper class. She is, by her own admission, dowdy, unattractive, often grumpy and wants everybody to believe that she is the stereotype of all concierges, blending into the background, almost featureless. But Renée has a well-kept secret: she is an extremely cultured autodidact. She loves art, philosophy, literature, music. Aestheticism and beauty in all of its forms fascinate her. Renée keeps concealing this aspect of her life to the outside world, hiding behind the concierge's screen -literal and metaphorical-.
Paloma is a twelve-year-old who lives in the building with her rich family. She is distractedly well-loved by her parents and does not get along with her older sister. Paloma is an extremely bright, clear-headed, lucid child. She is so lucid it is uncomfortable -yet to the reader she also conveys tenderness, and her wittiness is remarkable- .
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The Elegance of the Hedgehog offered three points of view about how life can be lived in an elegant condo in Paris. A twelve year old precocious girl, an older woman who is bright but hides her intellectual light in dowdy clothing and submissive behaviour, and a wealthy Japanese man whose warm hearted insight brings the three together makes up the main characters. They meet long after we learn about their idiosyncrasies, and become poignant friends. The book is haunting and the writing is good. Being a translation we do not get the verbal sophistication that the French would, but nontheless, it is delightful. A very enjoyable book.
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This award winning novel, translated from the French, explores our prejudices and presents a small snapshot of French society. I suggest that you see Robert Adams Utube lecture as an adjunct to reading this novel. A wonderful book that is permanently on my bookshelf. Enjoy.
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This absolutely wondrous hedgehog has a simple elegance. Simple elegance is also found in the Japanese word, ‘wabi,’ which means:

“an understated form of beauty, a quality of refinement masked by rustic simplicity
.

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” is not a plot driven novel, instead it is part character study and part philosophical fiction on how we perceive the world. Primarily it is about learning to see beauty in everything and there is an incredible abundance of beauty within these pages. It is also about moving beyond oneself to a greater engagement with life.

An uplifting read that insists that “it is not all bad.”
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