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The Elegance of the Hedgehog Paperback – September 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This audio version of the surprise French bestseller hits the mark as both performance and story. The leisurely pace of the novel, which explores the upstairs-downstairs goings-on of a posh Parisian apartment building, lends itself well to audio, and those who might have been tempted to skip through the novel's more laborious philosophical passages (the author is a professor of philosophy) will savor these ruminations when read aloud. Tony Award–winning actress Barbara Rosenblat positively embodies the concierge, Renée Michel, who deliberately hides her radiant intelligence from the upper-crust residents of 7 rue de Grenelle, and the performance of Cassandra Morris as the precocious girl who recognizes Renée as a kindred spirit is nothing short of a revelation. Morris's voice, inflection and timbre all conspire to make the performance entirely believable. A Europa paperback. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
In a bourgeois apartment building in Paris, we encounter Renée, an intelligent, philosophical, and cultured concierge who masks herself as the stereotypical uneducated “super” to avoid suspicion from the building’s pretentious inhabitants. Also living in the building is Paloma, the adolescent daughter of a parliamentarian, who has decided to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday because she cannot bear to live among the rich. Although they are passing strangers, it is through Renée’s observations and Paloma’s journal entries that The Elegance of the Hedgehog reveals the absurd lives of the wealthy. That is until a Japanese businessman moves into the building and brings the two characters together. A critical success in France, the novel may strike a different chord with some readers in the U.S. The plot thins at moments and is supplanted with philosophical discourse on culture, the ruling class, and the injustices done to the poor, leaving the reader enlightened on Kant but disappointed with the story at hand. --Heather Paulson
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The two main characters Renee, the concierge of an apartment building for wealthy tenants, and Paloma, the younger daughter of a couple of married tenants, were much alike. Both were extremely intelligent but had negative self images and thought others looked down upon them. At the same time each was critical of the very people they thought looked down on them.
Another trait the woman and girl had in common was dwelling on philosophy. At times I felt as if I were being lectured to by one or the other. Each seemed to spend almost all of their time in their heads. It got tedious.
The last third more or less was better after a new tenant arrived and was friendly with both Paloma and Renee. He redeemed the book to some degree.
The writing, no doubt, is excellent. I reread sentences marveling at the arrangement of words and at the honest look into human nature. I loved this bit: "Human longing! We cannot cease desiring, and this is our glory, and our doom. Desire! It carries us and crucifies us..."
The story grabbed my full attention when Kakuro Ozu came on scene. I loved watching his friendship with Renee and Paloma unfold, and seeing the awareness and pleasure he brings to their lives.
The ending took me by surprise and left me very dissatisfied. This was an ending where I wanted to sit the author down and say, why in the hell...
author of CONFESSIONS OF A BI-POLAR MARDI GRAS QUEEN
and STORKBITES: A MEMOIR
Most recent customer reviews
The first half is quite funny and a pleasure to read.Read more