Paris in July: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It's time for Paris in July hosted by Thyme for Tea and BookBath. There's nothing like a little something French to help you endure the summer heat. So I decided to read the French novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog and watch the movie Priceless.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
★★★★

Renée is a middle-aged concierge in a luxury building in Paris. Paloma is a brilliant 12-yr-old who lives in the building. The two narrate the story with surprisingly similar voices. They philosophize on class systems, the meaning of life, etc.

The book didn't pick up for me until a new tenant, Ozu, moved into the building. His character sets everything in motion. Until he appears it's mainly just Paloma and Renée's self-centered thoughts, which were becoming a bit tiring. Once Ozu is introduced there is more of a plot and I really enjoyed his interaction with both Paloma and Renée. Once I got into the rhythm of the book I really liked it, though I preferred Renée's sections.

It is a very French book, debating social status as opposed to true knowledge and love of art. Its greatest strength is the quiet interaction between the characters: Paloma and Renée, Ozu and Renée, Renée and her best friend Manuela. It's those relationships and conversations that give the books its spark.

"But we all know perfectly well that in essence dreams and waking hours do not have the same texture."

Here's a bit from the book which explains the title...

"Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant."


(Priceless)

Priceless stars Audrey Tautou, who captured everyone's heart in Amélie, and Gad Elmaleh, who is new to me, but equally delightful. Tautou is a gold digger who mistakenly thinks she's found a new rich man in Elmaleh. He is thrilled by her interest, but she soon discovers he's only a hotel clerk. It's a sweet story that is a perfect summer treat.

9 comments:

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Great post! I'm interested to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it sounds interesting! And anything with Audrey Tatou is just fantastic!

mel u said...

great post for the event-I read Hedgehog about a year ago and I totally loved it-I also read her Gourmet's Rhapsody which I liked a lot also (but not as much)

Avid Reader said...

I will definitely be reading Gourmet's Rhapsody at some point. I'm interested to read more from Barbery.

Jenners said...

I love the quote explaining the book title. And what a wonderful title it is!

Nymeth said...

The book has been on my wishlist for some time, but Priceless hadn't made it onto my radar yet. Sounds like something I'd really enjoy :)

Carl V. said...

I'm a big fan of Audrey Tautou and was pleased to be able to see Priceless in the theater when it was released. I need to watch it again, it was a lot of fun.

Yvonne said...

The Elegance of the Hedgehog was one of those books that I came across by chance and I am really glad that it did. I loved the character of Renee the most. It would make a great book discussion selection, but the cover is awful!

Jeanne said...

Be warned about Gourmet Rhapsody--I liked this one enough to go back and find that one and read it, and thought it was terrible (see my review).

Avid Reader said...

Jeanne - Thanks for the heads up. Maybe I'll wait on Gourmet.