Monday, 13 February 2012

Muriel Barbery - The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Original title: L'Élégance du hérisson
Author: Muriel Barbery
Pub. year: 2006
Pages: 336
Editor: Europa
Summary: Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.

When I started this book, I'd heard a lot about it, but I didn't know what it was about. I was curious, not knowing if I were to like it.

Truth is, I liked it a lot, but... I disliked part of it too. It was a weird feeling because I liked the plot, the characters, and some references, but I was bored with some reflections all the same. So, I ended up skipping the ones that didn't quite appeal me. I guess it depends on what you're interested in. It's not the kind of book you want to read after a rough day.

Otherwise, it's a really nice book, well written, and characters are endearing, even though I don't always share their views. I especially enjoyed the story from the moment Mr Ozu enters it. I also thought that the end was really really well chosen. Even if I quite expected it, I wasn't sure and it still moved me.
And Paloma... oh, Paloma... this smart young girl who is so delusional about life. I think she was the one who fascinated me the most. I mean, I know it's mostly about Renée, but it's easy for her to criticise and stay hidden behind her door, her head in her books (even though she gets better) but she doesn't follow through on what she thinks. Yeah, I know, it's the whole point of her career choice. But Paloma has this little something that caught my eyes. I was moved by the way she sees people, how she perceives life, by her careless parents, ...

Anyhow, I closed the book with a lump in my throat (yeah Muffin, that one's definitely for you :P), glad I read it, even if I didn't enjoy all of it. I left the book with a rather good opinion of it, so.

2 commentaires:

this will be my second of Barbery's books I'll read and hope it will exonerate the Une gourmandise, which I can't say was exciting...

I haven't read that one but most of the reviews were not that good regarding Une gourmandise. The Elegance of the Hedgehog was far more appreciated for all I know. :)

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