The Elegance of the hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery









The Elegance of the hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery

Summary
The enthralling international bestseller. We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence. Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter. Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

Characters
NameRenee Michael
GenderFemale
Age54
OccupationHotel employee
AttributesWidow
Works in an elegant Paris hotel; has always been poor; taught herself literature and the arts

NamePaloma Josse
GenderGirl
Age12
OccupationStudent
AttributesExtremely smart; lives in the Paris hotel that Renee works at; wants to commit suicide


Genre
Fiction

Topics
Widows
Hotels
Wealthy lifestyles
Suicide
Friendship
Identity
Transformations

Setting
Paris, France -- Europe
France -- Europe





The enthralling international bestseller. We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence. Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter. Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.





Writer and philosophy professor Muriel Barbery was born in Casablanca, Morocco on May 28, 1969 and raised in France. She attended the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud from 1990 to 1993 and then taught philosophy at the Université de Bourgogne, in a lycée, and at the Saint-Lô IUFM. Barbery has published the bestselling novels L'Élégance du hérisson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) and Une Gourmandise (Gourmet Rhapsody). (Bowker Author Biography)





This late addition to HighBridge Audio's catalog, whose 2006 print edition topped France's best sellers lists, is alternately narrated by a 54-year-old Parisian concierge and a precocious 12-year-old girl residing in the building where he works. Though the novel starts slowly, it eventually transforms into a beautiful love story that quietly takes on classism and the meaning of life in one fell swoop. The readings by Barbara Rosenblat (www.barbararosenblat.com) and Cassandra Morris (Elsewhere) add life and realism. For fans of the work of Alice Sebold, Pablo Neruda, and Paulo Coelho. [The New York Times best-selling Europa Editions pb was recommended "for public libraries where literature in translation is in demand and for academic libraries to complement their French collections," LJ 6/15/08.-Ed.]-Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.





This dark but redemptive novel, an international bestseller, marks the debut in English of Normandy philosophy professor Barbery. Renee Michel, 54 and widowed, is the stolid concierge in an elegant Paris hotel particulier. Though "short, ugly, and plump," Renee has, as she says, "always been poor," but she has a secret: she's a ferocious autodidact who's better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building's snobby residents. Meanwhile, "supersmart" 12-year-old Paloma Josse, who switches off narration with Renee, lives in the building with her wealthy, liberal family. Having grasped life's futility early on, Paloma plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. The arrival of a new tenant, Kakuro Ozu, who befriends both the young pessimist and the concierge alike, sets up their possible transformations. By turns very funny (particularly in Paloma's sections) and heartbreaking, Barbery never allows either of her dour narrators to get too cerebral or too sentimental. Her simple plot and sudden denouement add up to a great deal more than the sum of their parts. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved





In a bourgeois apartment building in Paris, we encounter Renée, an intelligent, philosophical, and cultured concierge who masks herself as the stereotypical uneducated super to avoid suspicion from the building's pretentious inhabitants. Also living in the building is Paloma, the adolescent daughter of a parliamentarian, who has decided to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday because she cannot bear to live among the rich. Although they are passing strangers, it is through Renée's observations and Paloma's journal entries that The Elegance of the Hedgehog reveals the absurd lives of the wealthy. That is until a Japanese businessman moves into the building and brings the two characters together. A critical success in France, the novel may strike a different chord with some readers in the U.S. The plot thins at moments and is supplanted with philosophical discourse on culture, the ruling class, and the injustices done to the poor, leaving the reader enlightened on Kant but disappointed with the story at hand.--Paulson, Heather Copyright 2008 Booklist






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