Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry (2006, 325 pages)

This book is the reason I started The Reading Life

Irish Short Story Month (March 1 to March 31) starts soon.  Please consider participating 

Event Resources-Links to lots of short stories, from classics to brand new works. Please consider joining us for the event.  All you need to do is complete a post on any Irish Short Story and let me know about it.  I will publicize your post and keep a master list. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. 

Movie Image
In June 2009 I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry.   I totally loved the book, except for the ending which I really disliked.   I wanted to see what other people thought about the book so of course I Goggled it.   This was how I entered the international book blog world.  I found a very good post on the book on (which sadly no longer is online).  I entered a lengthy and for me very fruitful series of comments on the book there.   The Elegance of the Hedgehog centers on Renee, a 53 year old concierge at an apartment building in Paris, occupied by eight very rich families.   Renee is an incredibly cultured autodidact who has been a compulsive reader all her life, and not romance novels.  She reads Tolstoy and Husserl.  She thinks the people who live in the apartment complex will not accept her if they know she has raised her self to such a highly cultured level so she does the best she can to live up to the rich people's image (in her mind) of what a concierge should be like.   She even buys a TV just so she can keep it on all day as she figures that is what the residents will expect her to do.  In a strange way I identified with Renee.  I have always read in isolation, as a child I was made somehow to feel odd because of this.

Paloma-from the movie

Because of my enjoyment of reading the various book blog posts, I decided to try to start my own book blog.  I was going to focus on books about people who lead reading centered lives.   Some of the greatest books of all times have been devoted to this theme, starting with Don Quixote, which has a good claim to being the most influential novel of all time, then we have what many say is the perfect novel, Madame Bovary about a woman made unsatisfied with her life my reading romance novels (in a similar vein to Anna Karenina) on up to a long list of more recent works.  I assembled a list of fifty novels on this theme.   I started my blog and The Elegance of the Hedgehog was one of the very first books I posted on.  Soon I began to drift away from a strict focus on books about those in the reading life but in the back of my mind it is still the core theme of my blog.

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I reread The Elegance of the Hedgehog (OK you got to love the title!) over the last few days.  I liked it even more than I did the first time.   I knew what was going to happen in the end, it is shocking and totally sad.  I do not at all like the ending as an event in the life of Madame Renne (as she was called), a character I like and identify with.  On first reading I thought the ending was just a way for Barberry to get the book completed but now I think I see the point of it.  There is so much in this book I will just say I am among the 100s of 1000s of people who love it.

My first post on it is here.   I was just learning how to write a blog post then so if you read it don't be to harsh!   I hope to reread this book in late 2014.

I also want to complement Europa Editions for the very high quality product.  If publishers want the physical book to survive, and I am an E-reader, they need to have quality products like those of Europa.

The book was translated by Alison Anderson.

I also read and enjoyed her first novel, Gourmet Rhapsody


Anonymous said...

wow, I had no idea this is how everything started.
as I explain in my post, this book was also instrumental for me, as it helped reconcile with French literature.
glad you discovered the book and started The Reading Life.
By the way, your link to incurable logophilia does not seem to work, and it seems this blog no longer exists.
here is my post:

Mel u said...

wordsandpeace-thanks for the heads up on incurable logophilia-I will update my post-

I hope you will consider participating in Irish Short Story Month

Jinky said...

You piqued my interest. I want to read this .. adding this to my tbr! Thanks. :)

shaunag said...

Really interesting, Mel. Thanks for posting!

stujallen said...

I hope to Join Irish short story month again ,I ve elegance of hedgehog on my tbr started it but got sidetrack so will need to start again at some point ,all the best stu

Mel u said...

stujallen-I hope you can once again participate

Shauna -Hedgehog is a for sure Reading Life book-

valerie sirr said...

Interesting story about the origins of The Reading Life. Happy future reading :)