The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

hedgehog

Two intelligent misfits will finds their lives changed when a new tenant moves into their Paris apartment block. One at the end of her life, the intelligent concierge who hides herself in obscurity, and one beginning her life, a bright 12 year old girl who is frustrated with the hypocrisy of the people around her.

Both spend their time hiding from the world, and each have one best friend, but find themselves opening up to the new tenant who moves in, a Japanese man who looks below the surface appearance of people.

It’s an interesting book. Most of the people in it are not very likable, which makes it understandable that the concierge Renee and the girl Paloma would want to withdraw from such social contact. But they are both quite hard people, not particularly lovable themselves, with their long discourses on philosophy and why everyone is awful. Because of this, it took me a while to get into this book, but it is beautifully written and littered with references to literature, culture, philosophy and the arts. And when Kakuro, the Japanese gentleman turns up, everything softens, and the book starts to shine.

Read it if: you’ve ever felt like you were the only honest and intelligent person on the planet.

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