dinsdag 29 september 2015

Muriel Barbery: The Elegance of the Hedgehog


This is my second time reading this novel by Muriel Barbery.
I got it as a gift from my husband a few years ago and it has 315 pages.

 “We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.”

I loved it just as much as the first time.

The novel is philosophical but not overly so, sentimental, it’s still accessible, it’s charming, it’s moving and it’s bittersweet.
It’s an ode to every form of art out there.

Paloma is wonderfully pretentious. She is intelligent, humorous, sweet, well-read, sophisticated and still down-to-earth. And she’s surrounded by a family who feel too good, too comfortable in their high tower.
Renée is my favorite though. She’s smart, witty, very funny and oh so lovable.
Monsieur Ozu is a real gentleman, he’s generous, charming and he has an open demeanor.
I thought the characters all very real and genuine.

The ending is amazing and perfect for this story.

This is such a lovely novel and definitely worth your time.

Happy reading!