Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday's Reading - The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I have the best friends in the world. And sadly, they're half a world way. I grew in up in Manchester NH and attended Central High from 1982-86. During that time I met 3 ladies (Idgy, Alyssa, & Karen) who have been my friends since. Their friendship, honesty, and loyality mean the world to me. We stay in touch via our Yahoo Group "NH Durannie Chicks" and last year we started a book club. That's how I came to discover "The Elegance of the Hedgehog."

It was Idgy's turn to pick a book for January and she picked "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Mariel Barbery. While I'm not done, I'm enjoying this book very much.

"Hedgehog" was originally released in France in August 2006 and since has been translated into English. It's received critical aclaim and I have to agree, it's well deserved.

"Hedgehog" takes a look at two characters who live in a trendy Paris apartment building. The main character is Renee Michel, the concerige who keeps the apartment building running smoothly. A concerige is supposed to be an uneducated person (at least to the world) but Renee is different. She's very educated and sophisicated, appreciating art and philisophy. Of course she hides it to the tenants by playing her TV all day. Her best friend is a Portguese maid, Manuela. Paloma Josse is a 12 year old who lives in the apartment building. Paloma is very cynacal (sp) of the world and plans on burning down the apartment building and committing sucide when she turns 13 - which is shortly.

When Paloma meets Renee she learns that not there is hope in the world. While the concerige, Renne, may have the elegence of the hedgehog - soft and refined on the inside, all prickly on the outside, Renee gives Paloma hope.

A new tenant moves in, a Japanese man, Ozu. Ozu and Renee become friends, further capturing Paloma's instrest. I'm not quite finished with the book, but I want to know if Paloma is going to carry out her plan of burning the building down and what is going to happen with Renee and Ozu.

I love the friendship of Renee and Manuela in the book. For me, it captures the essence of true friendship.

The book itself has been described as French satire on French stereotypes such as class consciscious (sp), but a reader could easily understand the themes as it relates to them in America.

The book does start out a little slow as the reader gets to know Renee and Paloma, but it picks up quickly and holds interest. It's a book I would have read on my own if I had known about it (because I hold French things dear to my heart due to my hertiage) but I would have never known about it if it wasn't for my book club.

If you're looking for a bit of mainstream/satireish read, this is a great book. It's one you can enjoy and think about.


  1. Awww! Your friendship means a lot to me as well! Thanks Steph!

  2. ((Hugs)) and smiles, Aly. You girls rock! I'm sorry that I'll be missing your baby shower, but hopefully I can come out some time later on in the year.

    I'm crossing my fingers

  3. I am so touched that you chose this book to review and cited our treasured friendship, which I consider one of my greatest blessings. I am also delighted to hear you are enjoying the novel. It resonated greatly with me, and I was hopeful you would love it as much. I am bursting to talk about it, as I know no one who has finished it yet! I already have at least one great BC question worked out!

  4. Idgy, I am really enjoying the book and I'm almost done. I hope to finish it tonight after the boys go to bed. It is resonating very much with me and I'm very excited to talk about it. You and Aly, and Karen will always be special to me and I'm so glad to have your friendship, even 3,000 miles away.

    Smiles & Love