Book Club: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Thursday, December 12, 2019 6:00 PM
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
Moderator: Katy Hurley
We are in an elegant hotel in the center of Paris. Renee, the building’s concierge, is short, ugly and plump. She has a bunions on her feet. She is cantankerous and addicted to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is her cat, Leo. In short, she is everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. But Renee has a secret: she is a ferocious autodidact who furtively devours art, philosophy, music and Japanese culture. With biting humor she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants - her inferiors in every
way except that of materials wealth.
Then there’s Paloma, a super-smart twelve year old and the youngest daughter of the Josses, who live on the fifth floor. Talented, precocious, and startlingly lucid, she has come to terms with life’s seeming futility and has decided to end her own on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop 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 new tenant arrives, a wealthy Japanese man. He befriends Paloma and is able to see through Renee’s timeworn disguise to the mysterious event that has haunted her since childhood. This is a moving, witty and redemptive novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.