The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the HedgehogFinished audio 6-17-11, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2008

Unabridged audio 9.5 hours.  Read by Tony-Award winner Barbara Rosenblat & Cassandra Morris

Renee Michel is a concierge at a posh Paris apartment building and Paloma Josse is a 12-year-old girl planning on committing suicide on her 13th birthday.  The two know each other only in passing until the impressive Mr. Ozu movies into the building and befriends them both.  Renee cannot believe that someone like Mr. Ozu can see the real her, the intelligent and insightful woman behind the concierge mask and Paloma is surprised to find someone in the upper class to surprise her with warmth and smarts.

The chapters alternate between the two and this worked for me.  I liked them both for their intelligence, spunk, and subtlety.  I would have liked more story between them.  The first half of the book was an introduction and many philosophy references.  Too many for me.  This is a book that I believe benefitted from the audio performances.  I absolutely loved listening to Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris.  They really brought the words to life for me.  I’m not sure I would have made it through the print version.

Barbery is a professor of philosophy and it shows.  She reeled me in from the beginning and then I got a little lost and/or bored until the last third of the book.  The introduction of Mr. Ozu was really where the story and my enjoyment began.  This had been on my wishlist for so long that I had forgotten everything I read about it, so I was completely unprepared for the ending.  I had forgotten or never known that it would blow me away.

I’m iffy on this one.  I would recommend the audio if you are considering it though.

I checked this audio out of the library.

20 thoughts on “The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

  1. Thoughts of Joy says:

    I started listening to this a long time ago, and it didn’t appeal to me at the time so I set it aside. I planned on giving it another try when the mood struck. I’m not convinced that it’s my type of book, we’ll see. Sorry it wasn’t a winner for you.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I think one try is enough. Not sure it’s worth revisiting if it didn’t appeal to you the first time.

      • Thoughts of Joy says:

        Ha! As you already know, you were right! The second time didn’t appeal any more than the first. I don’t think I would have given it another shot had it not been for the movie coming out. It didn’t help that I am not a fan of one of the narrators.

  2. Mary says:

    I don’t think your reaction to it was unusual as I’ve read many reviews just like yours. That said, for me, a book like this is usually best read so at least I can skim if it starts to lose me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I went back & forth on the audio versus paper and while I would usually agree with you I know I would not have make it through the paper version. The audio performances were my favorite part of the book!

  3. rhapsodyinbooks says:

    There are things I found very annoying about this book. But I totally agree with you that the story and enjoyment really began with Mr. Ozu, and that the ending was a blow-away one!

  4. Misha says:

    Thanks for the review! This book has been on my wishlist for a long time.
    Most reviews I’ve read praise it a lot. So I am glad to see a slightly different point of view.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      If that makes you hesitant I might skip the book. There are lots of references, escpecially in the first half of the book.

  5. Veens says:

    I do remember reading about this book, but like you I am not remember much. Well I think I will give this a pass, because I am not sure of it.

  6. StephanieD says:

    This book is one of those “should reads” for me rather than “gotta read” because of all the rave reviews. I confess that the premise had left me lukewarm, but your review has pushed this book down to “I’ll read it someday. Maybe.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s