Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
January 28, 2012 24 Comments
Genre: contemporary fiction
First Published: 2007
I read this in: Dutch, the original language is French (L’élégance du hérisson)
Number of pages: 320
The Elegance of the Hedgehog: What it is About
Renée is a widow and janitor of an apartment complex for rich people. She is interested in topics such as philosophy, classic books, classical music, but she thinks it doesn’t look good for a janitor to be associated with things like that so she pretends to be a simple woman with the interests of her own class.
Paloma is the 12-year old daughter of a rich family who live in the apartment building and she is very intelligent. She strikes up a friendship with Renée, as does a new (and rich) apartment owner. Slowly but surely Renée drops her working class behaviour and shows her real self.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog: What I thought
3.5 stars (out of 5). I enjoyed the story of Renée and the man who recently moved into the apartment building. He is an outsider, too. While he is popular with the rich ladies in his building, he is more interested in Renée, who is not rich but is more of a soulmate to him than his shallow rich neighbours.
But there was way too much philosophy in the book. Both Paloma and Renée think deeply about the world around them and philosophise a lot. The book is told by them and there are large portions of philosophical considerations, which were sometimes quite clever, but often I was not interested.
I really enjoyed the interactions between the different characters in the book, though. The first part of the book was heavy on philosophy and had it not been for a challenge/competition on Shelfari, I would not have finished the book. Luckily, the second half was much better.