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Elegance of the Hedgehog is an all-time favorite of mine. Complex characters, interwoven lives, the creativity and compassion abound in this lovely French novel. One of very few that I will re-read again and again. Literary fiction at its best.
I bought a copy of this book when I was in high school, but never really read it because it was a bit too sophisticated for me. Now as a young professional, I was able to access this book more, although some of the references were beyond my knowledge (and interest) base. But, in a story of two erudite individuals, it made sense that the characters were not relatable in that regard. The story was very fascinating and unique! If you move beyond the intense references and intelligence gap, you will find a nice story within!
This book had been on my TO READ list forever and I was anxious to finally start it. What a huge disappointment to find that it doesn't seem to be a "real" story; just a bunch of short entries that frankly are either boring or don't make sense. Maybe it's me, maybe something was lost in translation but I didn't get too far into it before I decided that I have a lot more books to read on my very long list.
The first few pages will give your brain a workout (stick with it, you can do it!) but move through them to discover a wonderful book about a precocious girl with family issues searching for the meaning of life with an older mentor who is outwardly very simple but has an inner life propelled by art and literature.
I loved the book - probably because I could identify with the smart woman who had to hid her smarts to survive I would haave wished for a happier ending tho
Pretentious drivel. Worse, pretentious drivel where the author creates situations where not one but two protagonists get to complain endlessly, repetitively, mind-numbingly-boringly about everything and everyone around them. I regret finishing this book (though admit to skimming large chunks) as this is time in my life I can never get back. I will never read anything by this author again.
Beautifully written lyrical book.
Exploring concepts of who we really are vs who we pretend to be and why.
I loved every moment until the final chapter which was heartbreaking.
The book is full of (philosophy, literature, pop culture... beauty, art, time, death...class, wealth vs poverty) lofty subjects, crammed into the heads of two pathological geniuses, their erudite narrations alternate, failed to entertain me, no matter what perspective I endeavor. A satire? A reference read for school project? A pseudo Proustian, nice try?
I found some pearls - adage, metaphor, axiom, but couldn't thread these into a necklace.
Since the book dedicates one chapter on Consonance (art), there may be consonance of a single thought and a simple abstract expression here and there, but the whole book lack consonance.
Aristocracy of the heart, what an incongruent claim Rene has. Does author want to ridicule the heroine with what she intend to disdain or elude to value?
Joy and sadness...glad I had a napkin handy to blot the tears. I suppose the sentimentality hit me harder than expected since I was listening to a mix of 80s music and reminiscing about my own life.
I'm of two minds about this novel. On the one hand, it is well-constructed and features a set of quirky yet (mostly) likeable characters; however, the whole thing is overlaid with a heavy-handed philosophical discourse that appears to have no other purpose than to demonstrate the author's Wikipedia-level knowledge of 20th-Century Western thought. Strange digressions abound, in the form of the internal monologues of the protagonists, all of whom are outcasts of one type or another. Thus we learn that the solitary-yet-highly intelligent concierge favours Kant, and that Husserl and the phenomenologists are basically garbage. Such asides contribute nothing to the story. So why are they there? Presumably the intent is to prove that the author is as "intelligent" as the characters she is writing. This brings us to another problem with the book: the main characters bathe in the rarified air of high culture and literature, while the socially-powerful-yet-vapid people surrounding them serve are mere caricatures, consumed as they are with all of the lusts and chemical dependencies and empty consumerism of late capitalism. This false dichotomy rings hollow. Clearly the author intended the book as some kind of cultural critique; however, her unabashed adoration of the products of Western "high" art (not to mention a vaguely Orientalist idealization of Japanese culture) detracts from her ethos. This novel lacks the subtle social commentary of "Anna Karenina," which is clearly a favourite of the author's: allusions to it are peppered throughout the novel. Further, "Hedgehog" occasionally stretches the reader's ability to suspend disbelief (a 12-year-old blackmailing her family therapist while quoting Lacan? Suuuurrrrrre.). If this novel spent a year on the NYT Bestseller list, it's not because it's a smart novel, it's because it makes readers FEEL like they're smart for reading it. If you are looking for modern European philosophical fiction, keep moving. Many finer examples exist.
Not for everyone, it moves slowly and not much action except the changes in the characters. Lots of digressions. It feels very French, hard for a North American to accept the class divisions that are an important part of the book. But I would gladly re-read it, with more patience.
"Having a rich inner life" does not afford you the right to denigrate and look down your nose at others. One of the most pretentious and self indulgent novels I have read in some time. I am of the opinion that a novel reflects in many ways the beliefs and personality of the author. I would not walk across the street to meet this woman.
Sweet, simple, and surprisingly subtle.
What a delight; beautifully written and translated. Such a sad and sensitive story about the real lives and thoughts of the people living in a Paris apartment building.
The story was very well-told. There was humor and I liked the change of voices between the characters.
This book would have been perfect if it hadn't turned a bit too sentimental towards the end. On balance, greatly enjoyed it.
What a grating book...Characters that seem to whine and say: 'Look at me: I'm smart and self-aware and read Tolstoy, but I'm sensitive and marginalized so I have more soul, more depth than anyone else. I may be socially inferior but--meh--I can take smug comfort in my moral superiority, so take that, cruel world!' Gah.
It's the most irritating artifice in books to conflate the precocious with interesting and charming. Renee (a self-inflicted outcast) and Paloma (a self-inflicted angsty brat), you are smart but you are far from interesting or charming.
Glad I finished it but I'm not sure why I finished it. It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Philosophy isn't my thing and English translations of modern French literature aren't either. If either of those are for you, then enjoy! I thought the author (or translator?) waited far too long to inject the protagonists with enough humanity for me to care about what was happening to them.
This is a book rarely found, excellent written, innumerable citations and original stories.
You don't want to finish reading.
At first I was annoyed by the protagonists who found almost everyone stupidly arrogant and self-absorbed. These judgments were a manifestation of a different type of conceit - one based on quiet observation and insightful analysis. But what is so intriguing about seeing others' faults and, thereafter, only experiencing contempt and emotional insularity? Fortunately, I kept reading and, in the end, was rewarded with the vicarious experience of personal transformation. In its entirety, this book involves both the head and the heart, and therein lies its success. A wonderful book for its thoughts and its characters and the shifting relationships. But you must savour it!
A huge hit in France, this quietly humorous story is a philosophical gem. It is set in a posh apartment building in the centre of Paris, where Renee the ugly and seemingly stupid concierge oversees the lives of the bourgeois tenants. When the elegant Mr. Ozu moves in, he quickly discovers Renee's secret passion for arts and culture and against all protocol invites her for tea. In turn Renee befriends Paloma, the precocious and suicidal 12 year old daughter of a wealthy Parliamentarian. Renee and Paloma soon discover that there is more to life than either could have imagined before the arrival of the extraordinary Mr. Ozu. The novel unfolds like a delicate haiku poem.
Absolutely amazing book! If this book isn't still around in 100 years, and a well known and loved classic I will be very surprised.
This story is a work of art!
A lovely, moving, wise piece of storytelling. If you love Paris and a good think and a good cry at the end...this is for you.