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.

diesellibrarian's rating:
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