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The Elegance of the Hedgehog Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
You are precociously intelligent but only twelve and a half. Your sister, studying for her Masters degree at the Sorbonne, is a `beautiful person' of barren soulless talent. Your mother is a vacuous socialist snob while your father is a senior Government official hiding behind his role. You know from Dawkins and all the rest that life is just a pointless primate struggle to reproduce your genes. Surrounded by so much empty posturing and mediocrity, what is the point? You are Paloma Josse and you are determined to commit suicide on your 13th birthday.
A particularly loathsome apartment owner dies and someone new moves in. Wealthy, cultured and thoroughly civilised, perhaps Renee and Paloma, in their daily deceptions, have finally encountered someone they can't hoodwink. Primary certainties are reworked as the story moves to its shocking conclusion.
This is a beautiful piece of work: erudite, laugh-out-loud humorous and tragic by turns. It can't have been easy for Alison Anderson to capture in English the sophistication of Muriel Barbery's writing, but she's made a fine job of it. Recommended.
Alternating with Renee's thoughts about her life and studies, are the musings of Paloma Josse, a twelve-year-old who lives in the apartment building, the daughter of wealthy parents who have active professional lives. Like Renee, Paloma pretends to be just average, carefully constructing her own façade so that she can fit in at school, though she has the intellectual level of a senior in college. Ignored by her parents and her school, Paloma plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. As the lives of Renee and Paloma unfold and overlap, the rough parallels in their lives become obvious, both in their isolation and in their need to hide their talents.
When one of the apartment residents dies, Kakuro Ozu, whom Renee thinks may be related to the Japanese film maker that she most admires, moves in. Paloma, too, is impressed with Ozu, bemoaning the fact that he has moved in just as she has decided to kill herself.Read more ›
The book drags on while nothing much happens, until the mysterious Japanese resident moves in about halfway through the book. He serves the same role as the Magical Black Man (google this concept if you haven't heard of it) does in other books/movies, appearing out of nowhere to save the main characters from their humdrum lives ("Saved By Sushi").
Like other reviewers, I was irritated by the main characters feeling superior to everyone else. I was also annoyed by the blatant fetishizing of anything Japanese as exotic and culturally superior. I mean, gyoza is good and all, but it's like, pub food.
The book gains some momentum 3/4ths of the way through as the three main characters become friends. But then the book ends the way you ended your stories in third grade when you couldn't figure out how to end them.
Just a brief summary, as described by both main characters -Renée and Paloma - introducing themselves in the beginning of the book, which is written in a diary form by each.
Paris, present day. Renée is the widowed concierge of an elegant building in an exclusive area. Its inhabitants all belong to the upper class. She is, by her own admission, dowdy, unattractive, often grumpy and wants everybody to believe that she is the stereotype of all concierges, blending into the background, almost featureless. But Renée has a well-kept secret: she is an extremely cultured autodidact. She loves art, philosophy, literature, music. Aestheticism and beauty in all of its forms fascinate her. Renée keeps concealing this aspect of her life to the outside world, hiding behind the concierge's screen -literal and metaphorical-.
Paloma is a twelve-year-old who lives in the building with her rich family. She is distractedly well-loved by her parents and does not get along with her older sister. Paloma is an extremely bright, clear-headed, lucid child. She is so lucid it is uncomfortable -yet to the reader she also conveys tenderness, and her wittiness is remarkable- .Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought it to make a gift. I loved the book and wanted to share it! Everything went well with the purchase and delivery 😊🤗Published 15 hours ago by DANILA CRESPI
I found the book a slow start. This was my second attempt to conquer this book. But once I got into the flow of it I found it palatable . Read morePublished 23 days ago by Gale Arneson
A very entertaining read. The character's initial gloomy thoughts develop quickly into humorous situations and a renewed sense that life is worth living, after all.Published 25 days ago by carandu
Enjoyed lookiing into oneself and the healing that results when one can give and respond to others.Published 27 days ago by Catherine
This was a selection in my book club. The story for me began at 60%...the percentage complete as noted on my Kindle. I was not a philosophy major in school... Read morePublished 1 month ago by KMS
What a delightful book. My new favorite. The writing is superb. Clever and poignant. Proof that we never know what's behind a face.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer