“What is an aristocrat? A woman who is never sullied by vulgarity, although she may be surrounded by it.”
Renee Michel was born poor but intelligent. After an incident with her sister, she has condemned the rich and hidden her intelligence, ending up as a concierge for a high-end apartment building. The proud owner of Leo (named after Tolstoy), she has been widowed for a number of years and has one friend, Manuela, until she meets Monsieur Kakuro.
“Tea and manga instead of coffee and newspapers: some thing elegant and enchanting, instead of adult power-struggles and their sad aggressiveness.”
Paloma Josse is mature beyond her years but prefers to pretend she is stupid to hide herself from her family. She much prefers to be an introvert who details her profound thoughts and movements in a journal. However, she comes to the conclusion that the only way to escape the same fate as her upper class, well educated family, is to commit suicide.
“True novelty is that which does not grow old, despite the passage of time.”
I have never read any French literature before, let alone French philosophical literature. So please take my review with a grain of salt, as it is entirely possible that I just do not understand French classism and French literature.
I found the book pretentious, unbelievably pretentious. For the most part, I wanted to scream at Renee “who cares if you are more intelligent than them, if they are as self absorbed as you think then they wont even notice!” I found Renee just as pretentious, if not more than the characters she was complaining about. The way she would carry on about trivial things such as a comma in the wrong place was not only ridiculous but also boring. I enjoyed Paloma more than I did Renee but she was still pretentious. I did understand her reasoning for pretending not to be smart though. She had a burning desire to not “fit in” and not turn out like her parents and sister and I will admit that they didn’t sound happy at all.
I was disappointed that it took so long to be introduced to Monsieur Kakuro. Once he was introduced, it felt like the book was ending straight away. Which brings me to my final judgment; I was completely surprised by the ending. I truly did not predict it at all.
My recommendation: if you don’t like French literature, skip this.
TITLE: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
AUTHOR: Muriel Barbary
GENRE: Adult Fiction
GOODREADS CHALLENGE: 205/150
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