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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery




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Adult Book of the Month

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Translated from the French by Alison Anderson

Published by Gallic in 2008

Renée Michel, 54 and widowed, is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building on the Left Bank. To the residents she is honest, reliable and uncultivated - an ideal concierge. But Renée has a secret. Beneath this conventional facade she is a passionate autodidact who is better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building's snobby residents, and more truly cultured than many of her self-important employers. Down in her lodge, Renée conceals her intelligence and is resigned to living a lie. Meanwhile, several floors up, ‘supersmart’ twelve-year-old Paloma Josse lives with her wealthy, liberal family but is determined to avoid a predictably bourgeois future. She harbours secret plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. But the death of one of their privileged neighbours, and the arrival of a new Japanese tenant, Kakuro Ozu, brings dramatic change to number 7, Rue de Grenelle, altering the course of Renée’s and Paloma’s lives forever. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, this unusual and insightful novel has sold 2.5 million copies in French and is now an international publishing sensation. Though the plot thins at times and is supplanted with philosophical discourse on culture, the ruling class, and injustices to the poor, it adds up to a worthwhile and moving read. A recommended title for interesting book club discussion.

‘It is a profound but accessible book which elegantly treads the line between literary and commercial fiction.’ Viv Groskop The Observer

‘The novel wins over its fans with a life-affirming message, a generous portion of heart and Barbery's frequently wicked sense of humour.’ Time Magazine

Muriel Barbery was born in 1969 in Casablanca. The Elegance of the Hedgehog has been published in over twenty languages. Barbery now lives in Japan and is working on a third novel.

By the same author:
The Gourmet