20 February, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - gift

From Goodreads: Renée is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renée passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives.
Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renée lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.
By turn moving and hilarious, this unusual novel became the the French publishing phenomenon of 2007: from an initial print run of 3,000 to sales of over 2 million in hardback. It took 35 weeks to reach the number one bestseller spot but has now spent longer in the French bestseller lists than Dan Brown.

What I thought: This came to me from a friend on line, who knowing I liked reading, offered to send it to me as she was unlikely to read it. All I can say to Emma now is thank you!
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is really the story of two people living lives they shouldn't be living. Renee because she dumbs herself down to fit the stereotype and Paloma because she sees through the facade of those around her in her rich upper class apartment building. Through various turns of events, they both realise they don't have to live the lives they are, they can change.
I was pleasantly surprised by this. I often struggle with translated books, I find they often lose something. However the language in this seems to have retained it's eloquence and flow. I do think I've most probably missed things along the way, but I more than happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this.