The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Thoughts teothbymb The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Europa Editions 2008 (orig 2006), 325 pages

For wian15 What’s in a Name 8 Reading Challenge

Thank you Holly for giving me this book (in 2012).

Thank you Katie for cheering me along as I read this! So it was somewhat of a buddy read although I was the only one reading/hashtagging (#HedgehogElegance) and Katie was the TWEET-TO for all the fun tweetable quips and quotes that entertained and/or amused me.

“People aim for the stars, and they end up like goldfish in a bowl. I wonder if it wouldn’t be simpler just to teach children right from the start that life is absurd.”

What it’s ABOUT:  A concierge of a high-society apartment complex (of 5 units) keeps to herself and works hard to build an image of the lowly dumb building caretaker stereotype – NOT that I have such. The only concierges I know are for fancy hotels so it was a bit difficult to buy-in to an assumed stereotype when I don’t have it. Still, she is good at explaining herself as hiding her true passions of literature, music and cinema.

“She has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary – and terribly elegant.”

In alternating chapters, we meet a 12 year old resident of the building who feels like she doesn’t belong into the world she is born in, or in any world for that matter and she is extremely bright and thoughtful.

“But if you dread tomorrow, it’s because you don’t know how to build the present, and when you don’t know how to build the present, you tell yourself you can deal with it tomorrow, and it’s a lost cause anyway because tomorrow always ends up becoming today, don’t you see?”

I WAS entertained and amused. I can see why some might think it ‘pretentious’ but I thought it was merely a perfect part of the character descriptions and not of the author nor a story issue.

I had been wanting to read this for a long time and had it often on the NEXT-BOOK shelf but it kept getting shuffled aside for whatever hot glamorous book had to be read. I think I was afraid that I wouldn’t like it because I knew I had high expectations. I waited, also, to let the hype die down in the blogging world and in my brain, hoping to forget anything/everything.

Still, I had still had glimmers of expectation threatening my enjoyment. And I was wrong about a few things. Darn it! I thought it was about an odd  friendship between the caretaker and the little girl. Yes, but NO – it happened SO LATE in the book, I was rather confused!  so do know that going in.

“I have always been fascinated by the abnegation with which we human beings are capable of devoting a great deal of energy to the quest for nothing and to the rehashing of useless and absurd ideas.”

So much good stuff. A favorite book to add to my list.

“We live each day as if it were merely a rehearsal for the  next…”

Rating:  FIVE slices of pie.

TONS of new vocab words, too. I won’t define for you; I only starred these as I read along. A few I did put on Twitter.

Sidereal, deontology, furbelow, consonant, salvo, asthenic, demiurge, exeunt, syncretism, debility, subaltern, factotum*, incunabulum, eructation…

* I plan on using — factotum — in my NaNoWriMo work. Gots to! Definition is: A person whose job involves doing many different types of work. This is me.

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Copyright © 2007-2015. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.
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14 thoughts on “The Elegance of the Hedgehog

  1. Katie

    I am so glad you enjoyed it! It was a fun vicarious re-read for me as you shared your favorite bits! I got my hedgehog card in the mail yesterday – too cute! Thank you, pretty lady!

  2. I love this book and bristle at people who try to call it pretentious. I wonder if the 12-year-old girl narrator is one of the author’s ways of coping with that danger–that when you talk about erudite subjects, it can be hard to appeal to a broad audience.

    1. The ol’ problem of ‘liking’ a character or not. I personally loved these characters. I am pretty sure that like Paloma, I would have wanted to grow up and be a concierge, too, based on Renee.

  3. I read this a few years back and it has been one of my favourite books of all time. It introduced me to the films of the Japanese auteur Ozu. After reading the book, I’d seen almost all of his works. Glad that you’ve finally read it and like it too. All the best for your upcoming project in NaNoWriMo 2015. 😉

  4. litandlife

    This is one I got from the library that ended up convincing me not to use the library. Because I wish I owned it so I could put it into other people’s hands and also reread it someday. Loved, loved the characters.

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