Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
From The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barberry:
Open quote 

Apparently, now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is. They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don't want to go."


Profound thoughts of a 12 year old French girl, wise beyond her years, and of a 54 year old concierge, educated beyond her station. After the jump, my review.

Grade: B-

Renee is a 54 year old concierge of a luxury apartment building in Paris. She is self taught and wiser than any of the residents of the building, all of whom tend to be wealthy but bourgeois, all except for 12 year old Paloma, a precocious girl set on committing suicide when she turns 13 because she sees no point in the absurdity of life.

Renee and Paloma are three dimensional, complex, believable characters. The novel is structured with interleaved chapters of the musings of the two, much of it philosophical thoughts on class and culture. There is little "plot" to speak of in the novel, although it does reach a climax that leads both main characters to new understandings of the meaning of life and death, always and never. To be able to see the "odd moment of beauty" in a life where "there's a lot of despair" is an insight worth learning. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is full of such moments. It's one of the rare novels I'm compelled to read again, more for its ideas than its story.

No comments: