It’s a shame I’ve already listed my books of the year because The Elegance of The Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery would certainly have featured in it. (It’ll have to go into next year’s list.)
It’s a remarkable book. Translated expertly from French it tells the story of two people who live in a swanky Parisian apartment building; Renee, the seemingly grumpy, prickly concierge, and Paloma, the 12 year daughter of a wealthy family. Renee is desperate to hide her intelligence and love of art from everybody and Paloma, again hugely intelligent, has decided that there’s nothing in life worth living for and so has decided to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday.
The book is a wonderful, delightful, mix of philosophy and observation and subtle humour, but most of all it’s book about not fitting in, about being different. And it’s about beauty, more specifically, about the beauty of friendship once any preconceived notions of class have been stripped away. It’s about seeing people as they are, not as we expect them to be.
It is beautifully written and a book to be read when one can give it the attention and concentration it deserves.
I loved it. Even though it made me cry.
(It’s published by Gallic Books, who specialise in translating French books to the language I can read, and I’ve already started The Suicide Shop, another of theirs. I shall let you know how I get on…)