The Elegance of the Hedgehog
"What matters is what you are doing when you die," at least according to twelve-year-old Paloma, who is contemplating suicide because she's abandoned all faith in her superficial, bourgeoisie family. Across the hall from this introspective prodigy lives the widowed concierge of the Parisian hotel, Renée Michel, whose acquiescent exterior hides a vigilant, creative soul. Together, these unlikely heroines provide an amusing and thought-provoking storyline in Muriel Barbery's innovative novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. In succinct chapters that alternate between the characters' sardonic perspectives, Barbery's graceful sentences allow us to inhabit the minds of two "renegade and remarkable" intellectuals struggling to pass as ordinary citizens in a soulless society. Drawing inspiration from Dire Straits and Mozart, Japanese manga and Tolstoy, synchronized divers on TV and films like Blade Runner and The Hunt for Red October, these inherently likeable characters go searching for the meaning of art (and life) and the pleasure of human interaction and, as the title suggests, they continue to find beauty in the most unexpected places. -- Steffi Drewes
The enthralling international bestseller.
We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Ren?e, 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, Ren?e 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 Ren?e 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 Ren?e'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.