Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Blurb: Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building on the Left bank. To the residents she is honest, reliable and uncultivated- an ideal concierge. But Renee has a secret. Beneath this conventional facade she is passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her self-important employers. Down in her lodge, Renee is resigned to living a lie; meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid a predictably bourgeois future, and plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. But the death of one of their privileged neighbours will bring dramatic change to number 7, Rue de Grenelle, altering the course of both their lives forever.
What I thought: In Anna And The French Kiss, she studies foreign, translated novels. At one point, her English teacher says this: "Foreign novels are less action-oriented. They have a different pace; they're more reflective. They challenge us to look for the story, find the story within the story." Throughout the whole of this book, I was reminded of this quote. It really is like that- there's the plot, and then there's all their (the character's) thoughts and reflections, and it's all so interesting. Most of the books I normally read are English or American, and the whole book is centered around the plot. This is much more about character, and ideas. You could really feel the injustice of Renee's life, and how unfair the world is. And then there's Paloma, and I was desperate to find out what happened to her, and it's so sad because she's just a little girl.
I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog very much. It delves into all this philosophy about what it means to be human, and Art and Beauty (always given capital letters in the book), and how people naturally are. The main characters are all so interesting and noble and good (but only the main characters, everyone else seems to be horrible), and they make me think of the end of The Fault In Our Stars, where Augustus writes Hazel the letter, and he says "She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the Earth."
Muriel Barbery is an amazing writer. Most of what I read is either YA or classic-y type stuff. YA authors, while generally very good, are less sophisticated because their books are aimed at a younger age group. Most involve romance, gorgeous boys etc. This book is so different, and I love it. Anyone who likes Banana Yoshimoto or Milan Kundera will love this. And I did cry at the end. I've got to stop doing that.