13 Oct 2011


THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by MURIEL BARBERY (Translated by Alison Anderson) ...........

Puchased at a Waterstone's book store, this was the 71st book read for my .......

Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building on the Left Bank. To the residents she is honest, reliable and uncultivated - an ideal concierge. But Renee has a secret. Beneath this conventional facade she is passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her self-important employers.

Down in her lodge, Renee is resigned to living a lie; meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid a predictably bourgeois future, and plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday.

But the death of one of their privileged neighbours will bring dramatic change to number 7, Rue de Granelle, altering the course of both their lives forever.
....... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Preamble): "Marx has completely changed the way I view the world," declared the Pallieres boy this morning, although ordinarily he says nary a word to me.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 61) What charms me about the whole business is that he stubbornly insists on remaining a dog, whereas his mistress would like to make a gentleman of him.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: Would it surprise you to know I won't be keeping this one?

There are those books that once started get read very quickly because you cannot bear to put them down and then there are those books that get read very quickly because, try as you might, you aren't enjoying the story but are too stubborn to admit defeat and so end up reading them without really reading them .... if you know what I mean. 

Sadly this book falls into the second category, a book I didn't enjoy but still read from beginning to end albeit in a mechanical kind of way.

Too philosophical for my taste (what do I know about transcendental idealism?), I spent the first few chapters in deep contemplation, trying to figure out what exactly the author (a professor of philosophy) was saying and just what she meant when she said such-and-such a thing, only to give up trying to understand by page 49 or so.

So, any saving graces?

That I managed to make it to the end of the book?

Seriously though, I did enjoy 'Profound Thought No. 2' in which Paloma explored the notion that in order to understand her family all you had to do was look at their two cats. AND then there was the exploits of cocker spaniel, Neptune and whippet, Athena (as it is explained there are no Fidos or Rovers in the building)which were vaguely amusing.

PS. I thought I might mention that this has been adapted as a film called The Hedgehog (To see the Guardian's review click HERE).


Arti said...

The second category, well, I understand... Its really only the strong willed who read what they are not loving... I have left many a book half read!!
Have a fabulous week Tracy:)

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I've hesitated about reading this book since I first heard about it and still not sure it's for me. Maybe the movie version? I liked your review.

Suko said...

This is a book I've intended to read. Now I feel better about not having rushed to do so. Thanks, as usual, for your honest review, Petty.

Kelly said...

I had a friend who absolutely loved this book, but from what I read about it I just wasn't sure it was for me. From reading your review I think I'm probably right.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

You had me curious at philosophy, but sometimes it doesn't work. Hm... it does have a title that speaks to you, no? :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This is a very pretty cover on this version. Too bad you didn't care for this one. I need to read it.

naida said...

Too bad it wasnt great. I know what you mean about finishing it from being stubborn, I am the same way.