Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Written by Muriel Barbery
Published by Europa editions
ISBN10: 1933372605
ISBN13: 9781933372600

Review by Linda Yau

It took me a while to get through this book, but I have finally made through it, and what a reading time that it was. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an unlikely story of friendship between social classes. Set in Paris, Renée is a widowed concierge of an apartment building. Her employers are all families of bourgeois backgrounds, and she makes her observations of them on a first person narrative. Renée seemingly gets by in life by deceiving nearly everyone of her intelligence and appreciation of knowledge.

It wouldn’t be until after a new resident moves into the building that Renée discovers a kindred spirit in Paloma, a twelve year old resident. Her belief in life is to live with a goal of finding one’s task and completing their roles as best they can. However, Paloma can’t help but feel bored with her life. Can Renée influence her young friend, and through her interactions with Mr. Ozu accept her own past traumas?

Reading this, was like enjoying a glass of wine. Red or white you choose, the first several tastes – very unfamiliar tasting if you’re a novice. But as you get deeper into the book, then the flavors of the book explode, and you realize that the story is very rich. This is not a book to be read in one sitting, but something to savor and reflect upon.

I enjoyed this book, but it does take a time get settled into the story. Another thing to be forewarned is how long the author took to get into the meeting between Renée and Paloma, so there were a lot of words to read. The pacing of the book is pretty slow, so if choose to read this book, then just think back of my earlier comparison with wine.