Have you ever picked up a book and upon reading the first few chapters find yourself thinking that you were meant to read that book at that very moment? That is what I felt about Muriel Barbery’s “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” I had meant to read it earlier (didn’t buy it the first time I saw it because it was too expensive, got a copy and attempted to read it but gave way to other titles in the meantime), but I now realize that there may be reasons for this. I probably needed to get the book’s message at a time when I needed it the most.
“The Elegance of the Hedgehog” is packed with insights on art and beauty, and even grammar and phenomenology (this reminded me so much about my high school days in St. Scholastica), and yes, life and death. It seamlessly oscillates between the charming and the profound, observances of everyday life in an exclusive Paris apartment and the insights gleaned behind this menagerie of characters. The narrative is shared by Renée, the 54-year-old concierge of the apartment and Paloma, the 12-year-old precocious child on the 5th floor apartment. Both are more intelligent than what they appear to be and are bonded by a love for Japanese culture. It is only until the arrival of Kakuro Ozu in the apartment that leads to the intertwining of Renée and Paloma’s lives, which also leads to both characters realizing more than a few things about themselves.
There’s a part of me that identifies with Renée and Paloma, not so much about the intelligence (ha, if I can only come up with musings half as profound as theirs), but in the sense of being either unnoticed or retreating to their own worlds. (Perhaps, I am a hedgehog myself.) Maybe this is why I love the book so much.
Intelligent, insightful, elegant, and charming. The book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly is mine.
(Originally posted on my LiveJournal.)