Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery
One of the ironies of being intelligent is the realization that intelligence is not always helpful. For Renée, a middle-aged concierge in a Parisian apartment building, intelligence is something best kept hidden away, to be occasionally enjoyed in private, maybe with a good friend. But people expect someone of her background and employment to be boring and obedient, and she does her best to meet their expectations.

Meanwhile, Paloma, a 12-year-old living whose wealthy family lives upstairs in the same building, has decided that, unbeknownst to the silly and superficial people surrounding her, life is meaningless. She has a plan to dramatically end her life on her 13th birthday.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog alternates between the diaries of these two characters, who are both in for a surprise when a mysterious stranger moves into the building. This is a slow-paced book, celebrating these two sparkling souls who hide themselves so well. It is not, however, a book in which nothing happens. Part of the fun is in seeing how these beautiful minds will react when pushed out of their comfort zones. Loved it.

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