Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hedgehogs, and the Elegance Thereof

I have a thing for hedgehogs.  I don't really how it came to this, but in my family, we're serious fans of hedgehogs.  It started when my son started calling everyone "hedgehog" because he had seen Clifford the Big Red Dog, and in that show, Clifford's friend Cleo has a toy hedgehog that she absolutely loves.  I guess the word (which, admittedly rolls nicely off the tongue) just sort of stuck in his little brain.  Then we started collecting stuffed hedgehogs.  We named our GPS "Hedgie" after the character in Jan Brett's stories, Hedgie' Surprise, and The Hat.  We became a big fan of Jan Brett and her books because she also loves hedgehogs, and features them in many of her stories.  You can find one somewhere in nearly all of her books.  In my opinion, hedgehogs are just marvelous little creatures, and I envy Europeans who can find them in their natural habitat, munching on pesky slugs in their gardens.

All that to say I was naturally drawn to the title of this book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.  I ordered the book.  I started reading.  I started struggling.  It was a slow build, and when I found myself halfway through the book and still didn't see the plot forming very well, I nearly gave up.  It sat on my bed stand for a month or two, and then one night I needed some help falling asleep.  That night however, the book didn't allow it.  It suddenly all started to come together in an incredible way, and I was hooked! 

The story is thus:  two autodidacts live in the same posh apartment building in Paris.  One is the concierge of the building, the other is a 12 year old girl, who plans to commit suicide and burn her family's apartment on her 13th birthday.  Both spend a great deal of the book pondering issues such as friendship, beauty, and death.  Then, a turn of events brings them together, and the story goes from pretty good to luscious.  This book is one that could be read several times and enjoyed equally each time.  A dime-store novel it is not.  One word to the wise, however--keep a dictionary handy.  The author / translator has a much better vocabulary than you do, I'll wager.  If you're like me, you'll be dog-earing your favorite pages and underlining the most beautiful passages to store up and quote at a later time.  It's a book whose journey is to be savored, not rushed through to find out how it all ends.  It ends.  Beautifully.  But I'm not one to spoil a good book.

Oh, by the way, It has nothing to do with hedgehogs, but yet, it does...


  1. coming over from Wayside Sacraments blog. I've been wanting to read this book for some time now. I tried to convince my book club to read it but they turned it down :( I think I've only read one neg. review.

    I appreciate your encouragement not to rush. I've been rushing through books lately.

  2. Thanks so much for stopping by. Hey, even if no one wants to share this with you (i.e. your book group), you shouldn't let it slip by! It's their loss, you know?


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