The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

hedgehogIn July, I participated in Rebecca and Allison’s book club for the second time. The book we read was The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  We read and discussed the book over the course of the month and although I missed out on week 2 I quickly caught up, because it was easy to do so. Why? The book was interesting and I think that I will have to read it a second time to appreciate it even more!

The story is being narrated by two people.  First we have Renée who is a concierge. She admires Tolstoy (even names her cat “Leo”) and regardless of her job description, this woman is fairly intelligent. She criticizes her employers and tries to hide her true self from them. They belief she is dumb, but then she meets the new resident who sees through her. Soon she develops a blossoming friendship with him, as well as with the second narrator, Paloma.  Paloma is a 12 year old girl, daughter of one of the residents who believes life is meaningless and plans to commit suicide.  She decides that she will actively seek a reason for not having to do so, but until then she will act normal. In her diaries she shares her “profound thoughts” and I think this part of the novel I enjoyed most. Soon she became my favourite character in the book as I enjoyed reading her thoughts. She is such an insightful young lady, and what added to the mystery of Paloma was that her name only gets revealed later in the book.  She also becomes friends with Renée – and I loved that!

I don’t feel the need to elaborate further; you can just go and read more about our thoughts and opinions on the book in the discussion posts.  I think this is a nice read and I would totally recommend it.

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

  • You reminded me that I have this one to read. I bought it together with another of her novels – The Gourmet- and though I read that one, i haven’t got around to Hedgehog yet

    • I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. How was The Gourmet?

      • it was ok, a bit quirky. All the references to food were just so hard to read because everything sounded wonderful and I wanted to eat it instantly.

        • I would probably find it hard to read too, because I love good food 🙂

      • even though Gourmet Rhapsody is not as good as The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I think you should try it, you will find some common characters, and common description of a certain class of people. I thought the food descriptions were fantastic, but that’s true, not to be read if you are trying to fast at that time, lol. which proves how good the author is!

        • Thanks for your comment! I will consider reading Gourmet Rhapsody and will make sure I’m not fasting 🙂 I have no doubt that this author is good, I loved this book.

  • This book always gets such high praise. I started it once and couldn’t seem to get into it, so i put it down. Maybe it is time to give it another try.

    • Why was it hard to get into? I hope that you enjoy it a little bit more once you pick it up again 🙂

    • I think that the philosophical parts can make it a tougher read, but if you can just get a little further into the book, you’ll enjoy it. It’s a really good read!

  • Thanks to Sherrey Meyer’s blog, I have a chance to meet you, Melinda. This book was a gift from my son when I had surgery a few years ago. Even if I weren’t “strapped” to my bed I would have gobbled up this refreshing piece of social satire. Renee, Paloma, and Ozu–even the cat Leo are all endearing. I mark up all my books, and I remember learning the meaning of kairos, the idea of being open to the intuition of the moment, which some of the book’s characters do seem to rely on. Overall, the book is a bit quirky in style, which definitely resonates with me!

    You are invited to check out my blog which describes my early life as a Mennonite girl living in Lancaster County, PA. I am happy to “meet” you online. Your blog design is classy and inviting.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Marian. I’m glad that you got a chance to read this lovely book. I enjoyed the read and found Paloma’s profound thoughts insightful and even inspiring at times. I will definitely read this again, just in case I missed out on something, as we read this in phases. This was quirky indeed, very unlike the books I normally would read.

      I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Melinda, you will enjoy Marian’s blog — reflections of a simpler time and place. I love visiting there.

        • I’m sure. I loved the pictures that she posted.

  • I adore this book! I think I need to re-read it as well. I plan on reading it (very slowly!) in French next year. The Gourmet Rhapsody is also good but not as good as this one IMHO.

    • I will most definitely re-read it as well, because for the purpose of the book club I had to read it in phases (I didn’t want to read ahead and risk giving spoilers). I wish I could read or speak French!!

      I will check out The Gourmet Rhapsody on goodreads, thanks Rowena.

  • I soooooo agree that this book is one that needs to be reread!

    • I will definitely do so – uninterrrupted! I think I will enjoy it even more once I read from start to finish! I read it in phases, because I didn’t want to risk giving spoilers. I think this book is lovely, it makes you think (profound thoughts)

  • Good afternoon, Melinda! Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I want you to know that my book reviews are rarely that negative. (Seriously you can see from my Goodreads ratings)….

    I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I thought it was fantastic, and a great choice for a book club!


    PS I’m your newest follower.

    • Thank you for the follow Ricki! I am glad you enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog too.

  • I spotted that you guys where reading this book and I love the title. Will stuff it on my TBR. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s a nice read Ciska, and quite philosophical too 🙂
      I hope you will enjoy it!

  • I have been meaning to read this book. thanks for the reminder!

    • I hope you enjoy the read, Susan!

  • I’ve been so curious about this one, especially when I saw that you guys were all reading it. (Readalongs are super hard for me, boo) I hope to get to this one, one of these days!!

    • I hope you will and that you enjoy it Jen! You should consider to join us for book club one month… it can’t hurt 😉

      • I’m in the same boat as you, Jen — wishing readalongs and book clubs weren’t so hard for my schedule, boo too).

        • You two should really join in, just once. I think we’re doing a very short book for September 🙂

  • Like someone else who commented, I started this once, long ago and far away, and maybe it’s time to pick it up and try again. At the time I tried, we were going through a long family crisis that perhaps didn’t leave my mind free enough to absorb the goodness. Back on my list!

    • That sure is a contributing factor for not enjoying a book, or absorbing it’s content. I know exactly what you mean, hence I took a blog and reading break a while ago. I hope that you will enjoy the read the second time ’round, Sherrey. I think the profound thoughts are the best parts of the book.

  • I loved this book but, like many, had a bit of a harder time getting through the philosophical parts in the beginning. BUT it was totally worth it! Thanks so much for joining in with us and I hope join in next week for Lean In!

    • We need to read it again 🙂

      Participating in you and Rebecca’s book club is always a pleasure. I can’t wait for the next one!

  • This sounds like a really interesting read! It’s hard not to like a character who gets excited about an author 🙂 Are you doing this month’s book club as well? I am and I’m enjoying the book a lot 🙂

    • I really liked this book! Yes I’m doing Rebecca & Allison’s book club almost every time 🙂 I am enjoying Lean In too!

  • Melinda, I’m back again, with a comment about the The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I adore. This weekend I saw the movie of the book on Netflix with subtitles and a slightly different title “The Hedgehog.” A movie is a different genre entirely, as you know, but I thought the characterization, setting, and dialogue in the movie were faithful to the tone of the book.

    • Thanks for popping by, Marian. What is the movie’s name?

  • I will definitely have to read this book 🙂 Thanks for your review and I will also have to check out the book club’s discussion posts.

    • It’s quite a different read to what I’m used to, but it was a really nice pick for book club.