The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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Product Description

Winner of the 2007 French Booksellers Prize. In this philosophical fairy tale, we meet Renee, a Paris hotel concierge, cantankerous and addicted to TV soaps whose only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In her secret life she is a ferocious autodidact who furtively devours art, philosophy, music and Japanese culture. Then there's Paloma, a super-smart 12-year-old, talented, precocious, and startingly lucid though hiding behind a mask of mediocrity, who lives on the hotel's 5th floor. The two discover their kindred souls with the arrival of a new tenant who befriends them both, in this moving, witty, and redemptive novel. 325p.

Editorial Reviews

The second novel (but first to be published in the United States) from France-based author Barbery teaches philosophical lessons by shrewdly exposing rich secret lives hidden beneath conventional exteriors.René;;;;;;;e Michel has been the concierge at an apartment building in Paris for 27 years. Uneducated, widowed, ugly, short and plump, she looks like any other French apartment-house janitor, but Mme Michel is by no means what she seems. A ";;;;;;;proletarian autodidact,";;;;;;; she has broad cultural appetites—for the writings of Marx and Kant, the novels of Tolstoy, the films of Ozu and Wenders. She ponders philosophical questions and holds scathing opinions about some of the wealthy tenants of the apartments she maintains, but she is careful to keep her intelligence concealed, having learned from her sister's experience the dangers of using her mind in defiance of her class. Similarly, 12-year-old Paloma Josse, daughter of one of the well-connected tenant families, shields her erudition, philosophical inclinations, criticism—and also her dreams of suicide. But when a new Japanese tenant, Kakuro Ozu, moves in, everything changes for both females. He detects their intelligence and invites them into his cultured life. Curious and deeply fulfilling friendships blossom among the three, offering Paloma and René;;;;;;;e freedom from the mental prisons confining them.With its refined taste and political perspective, this is an elegant, light-spirited and very European adult fable. Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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