REVIEW: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Several friends had recommended The Elegance of the Hedgehog to me, so I got it through our inter-library loan. Translated from the French, this novel tells the story of the residents of an apartment building in Paris – particularly of Paloma, a 12 year old genius who plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday, and Renee, the concierge who hides her keen mind behind a facade of ordinariness. The novel is told through their alternating viewpoints – each with her own typeface.
When I began this book, I found it moving quite slow. It read more like a glimpse into two people’s diaries. I was enjoying it, but wondering if there was going to be a plot-driving dilemma. A good portion of the book occurs before Paloma and Renee even meet for the first time and strike up an unconventional friendship. Additionally, the coming of a new tenant, a wealthy Japanese businessman, further strengthens the friendship of Renee and Paloma, while lending an air of discovery and beauty to their every day world. After Mr. Ozu enters their lives, the pace of the book picks up and becomes more action-oriented, while still being their very personal stories.
The ending of this book is startling and sudden, but it left me feeling positive. I think this would be a great book to read if you were feeling rather down on life. It is beautifully written (I find I am always saying that about novels translated from Romance languages!) and celebrates the simple beauties of the preciousness of life.
I give this novel 4 Stars!

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