Just Started: “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”

Okay, so this book came up kind of randomly in my reading queue yesterday. It’s been on my TBR list since October of 2010, but when I found myself at work on my lunch hour with “nothing to read,” I remembered that I had bought this book by Muriel Barbery and that, “I think it’s still in the backseat of my car.” I ventured out into the parking lot (& thus the blast furnace that is the “summer of 2012 in Indiana”) just long enough to rescue it and began reading…

How’s this for the two main protagonists describing themselves in the first few pages?

First, Paloma, the twelve-year old daughter of a family residing in elegant Parisian hotel: “…the fact is I am very intelligent. Exceptionally intelligent. Even now, if you look at children my age, there’s an abyss between us. And since I don’t really want to stand out, and since intelligence is very highly rated in my family – an exceptionally gifted child would never have a moment’s peace – I try to scale back my performance at school, but even so I always come first.”

Next, Renee, the 54-year old concierge of the hotel:
“I am short, ugly, and plump, I have bunions on my feet and, if I am to credit certain early mornings of self inflicted disgust, the breath of a mammoth. I did not go to college, I have always been poor, discreet, and insignificant. I live alone with my cat, a big, lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our relative species.”

Two characters after my own heart (in many, not all, ways). I’m hoping the book will live up to what’s promised in the dust jacket. A novel that “…exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.” I’ll probably finish it this weekend and have more to say then. I’m on page 90 of 325 now and loving it so far.

Also, credit for my being aware of this book goes to a trusted fellow blogger, Alex, at “The Sleepless Reader.” She wrote a review of this book , leading me to put it on my list.  Have any of you read it?


  1. Scott said,

    July 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Two characters after your own heart, eh? Are you saying you can relate to the girl, and that there was a great abyss of intelligence between you and your early classmates? 😉 Or are you just referring to the not standing out in a crowd theme? I’ll give you that one.


  2. Jay said,

    July 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I just realized how conceited that might have sounded! Oops. 🙂 The quotation from Paloma doesn’t clue in the reader that she too lives, for the most part, an introspective life (as I do).

    Of course, I am exceptionally intelligent too. At least once or twice a year. 🙂

    Regarding my early classmates, that might have been true – up until the 5th grade!


    • Scott said,

      July 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      You’re off the hook then!


  3. Dale said,

    July 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds like I need to read it! Looking forward to hearing about it when you are finished!


    • Jay said,

      July 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

      Pretty sure this one would really suit you, Dale. As I said, I’ll write more once I’m done reading.


  4. Megan said,

    July 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    I did read this book for a book club, and I’m sorry to say that I despised it. I hated every character in it. I could mostly forgive the 12-year old because as intelligent as she may be, she’s still a stupid 12-year-old, as all 12-year-olds are. As far as Renee, I found her to be detestable. Honestly, I don’t normally feel so negatively about book characters, but this book really pushed me over the edge. I’ll be really interested to hear what you have to say. Some of the others in my book group didn’t like it, but without the passionate loathing I brought to the table, and others in the group loved it. It’s clearly very polarizing!


    • Jay said,

      July 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      Wow, Megan! 🙂 I do appreciate you opinion, even when – and maybe especially when – it is contrary to mine. I finished the book today (I hope to write more about it later) and since your comment had been looking for fault perhaps more than I normally do, but in the end I still ended up liking it. A lot. It will be hard to sum up why in a future blog post but I will try. 🙂

      I also looked at some of the reviews on goodreads.com, and it does have that rare feature of having a lot of 5 stars AND a lot of 1 stars. I read some of the one star reviews today too and found them interesting.



  5. July 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Oh the pressure 🙂 Looking forward to your thoughts!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: