In an elegant hôtel particulier in Paris, Renée, the concierge, is all but invisible--short, plump, middle-aged, with bunions on her feet and an addiction to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she's everything...Read More
In an elegant hôtel particulier in Paris, Renée, the concierge, is all but invisible--short, plump, middle-aged, with bunions on her feet and an addiction to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she's everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in an upscale neighborhood. But Renée has a secret: she furtively, ferociously devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor, she scrutinizes the lives of the tenants--her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth. Paloma is a twelve-year-old who lives on the fifth floor. Talented and precocious, she's come to terms with life's seeming futility and decided to end her own on her thirteenth birthday. Until then, she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop culture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter. Paloma and Renée hide their true talents and finest qualities from a world they believe cannot or will not appreciate them. But after a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building, they will begin to recognize each other as kindred souls, in a novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us, and "teaches philosophical lessons by shrewdly exposing rich secret lives hidden beneath conventional exteriors" (Kirkus Reviews).
"The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about love. But not the sappy, head-over-heels variety. Rather, it's about the love of one's friends. It's about the love you can experience when you connect with strangers. And it's about the possibility--but just that--of romantic love." -- The Huffington Post
"Both [of the book's protagonists] create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renée with the erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio." --The New York Times
"Astute social satire and abstruse German philosophy are rarely found together, but here they are in this ingenious work of fiction." --The Boston Globe
"In this supple novel of ideas, a best-seller in France...two autodidacts share an allergy to grammatical errors (the concierge considers a misplaced comma an 'underhanded attack') and a love of tea and moments of ineffable beauty. Barbery's sly wit, which bestows lightness on the most ponderous cogitations, keeps her tale aloft." --The New Yorker