Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I am a serial re-reader of books. Sometimes I feel like revisiting a novel that I know makes me smile or feel something for the characters long after  have stopped reading and for that reason I picked up The Elegance of the Hedgehog for the second time. This is such a charming and yet unexpected book. The first time I was reading it I thought I knew exactly how it was going to end and then the ending completely suprised me.

Renee is the concierge of a very wealthy Parisian apartment building and from the outside she is probably like any other concierege - 'tolerable' rather than likeable, she introduces herself as old and fat and the owner of an oversized cat who likes to take long naps on embroidered cushions. Or at least, Renee has lived her life convincing her neighbours that she is like any other concierge.

But beneath her cover she is a lover of art and history, knowledgable about many ideas than any of her well-to-do neighbours. 12-year-old Paloma lives in Renee's apartment building. She is a precocious, highly intelligent child and on her 13th birthday she plans to set fire to the apartment building and commit suicide. When one of the inhabitants of number 7 Rue de Grenelle passes away the new owner, a Japanese businessman moves in. His friendship will change both their lives forever.

The book is told in chapter's alternating between Renee and Palomas lives throughout the story. What I loved most about this book is that yes, it is a cute story of unlikely friendship but reading Renee an Palomas thoughts, they really are people who see the world for all that it is. I love Paloma's witty take on the dull people her family associates with and the fact that Renee is always trying to hide her passion for arts and culture from the residents. Paloma is entertaining with her chapters detailing her profound thoughts - usually involving the stupidity of those around her.

Witty and intelligent, the Elegance of the Hedgehog is heartwarming and yet an unpredictable read. Have you read it?

No comments

Post a Comment

© Sundays and Ink. All rights reserved.