The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Muriel Barbery - Author

Alison Anderson - Translator

Paperback | $15.00 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9781933372600 | 336 pages | 02 Sep 2008 | Europa Editions | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
Additional Formats:
  • I.M.P.A.C. Dublin Award: Shortlist 2009
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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.

“This fable of ‘love, friendship and the beauty of Art’ not only gives innocence a voice, but also shows what a powerful novel can do: transport, educate and, ultimately, console.”
Toronto Star

“A beautiful story with a large cast of fascinating, complicated characters whose behaviour is delightfully unpredictable.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“This story, like all great tales, will break your heart, but it will also make you realize—or remember—that sometimes the pain is worth it.”
The Chicago Sun Times

“Gently satirical, exceptionally winning and inevitably bittersweet.”
The Washington Post

“Both [of the book’s protagonists] create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renée with erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio.”
The New York Times

“Wins over its fans with a life-affirming message … and Barbery’s frequently wicked sense of humour.”

“A new book that plumbs the astonishing ways private lives and guarded secrets can come tumbling—for better or worse—into the open.”

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