August 2008 Indie Next List
“The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a beautifully written novel, translated from the French, with unforgettable characters, Renee, a concierge with a rich inner life, and Paloma, a surprisingly talented young girl. Read it and get a reality check on who we are beneath our images of age, class, and occupation.”
— Jane Jacobs, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
April 2009 Indie Next List
“This novel of two remarkable characters, set in an elegant Paris apartment building, is wonderfully written and translated! I loved the philosophical discussions and artistic descriptions -- my reading group talked about this book for hours.”
— Mary K. Cowen, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL
September 2009 Indie Next List
“This story of an aging concierge and a 12-year-old girl in an exclusive apartment house in Paris was a huge hit in France. Pithy, erudite, and full of heart, this book should be on everyone's must-read list.”
— Lisa Wright, Oblong Books And Music,LLC., Millerton, NY
We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renee, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renee is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renee hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renee's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
About the Author
Muriel Barbery is the author of the international bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Gourmet Rhapsody (Europa Editions, 2009).