Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

L'eleganza del riccio by Muriel Barbery

L'eleganza del riccio (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Muriel Barbery

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,228None491 (3.81)2 / 775
Zeruhur's review
L'eleganza del riccio è un libro apparentemente semplice che cela diversi livelli di lettura. Il primo, superficiale, ha portato alcuni a disprezzarlo e altri a fraintenderlo. Eppure non c'è snobismo o pedanteria, non c'è intenzione di sminuire il lettore e di ridurlo a spettatore ignaro e passivo.
Certamente lo studio della filosofia aiuta a comprendere alcni passaggi in maniera più completa, giacché la Barbery ha la tendenza di esporre le proprie istanze filosofiche per bocca delle sue protagoniste che a volte sembrano la personificazione dell'autrice più che il loro personaggio.
Il succo però è che la Barbery vuole sottolineare come la cultura sia alla portata di tutti, se si ha la volontà di perseguirla, e non solo appannaggio di accademici paludati. Non è quindi snobismo, tutt'altro. Anzi dietro alle persone più insospettabili può celarsi una persona colta.
Forte quindi è il tema della maschera assunta dalle due protagoniste. Una si cela sotto l'apparenza dello stereotipo più classico della portinaia, sciatta e ignorante, dedita alla televisione e non troppo sveglia. All'altra, una dodicenne assai precoce, il gioco riesce più difficile in quanto celare la propria intelligenza, ridurla a standard normali è impossibile.
Questo porta Paloma alla constatazione della mediocrità della propria famiglia e combattuta tra la sua maturità mentale e il classico disagio adolescenziale, decide di farla finita portando con sé le certezze materiali dei mediocri genitori.
A svelare entrambe non a casa sarà un ricco e colto giapponese. La maschera infatti è un tema dominante della società nipponica.
Saranno quest'ultimo e Reneè la portinaia a introdurre Paloma a un mondo diverso.
La narrazione è divisa tra le voci delle due donne, l'una in prima persona, l'altra sotto forma di diario. Il risultato è un romanzo ricco di significati e di delicate sensazioni che si legge d'un fiato. ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
All member reviews
English (375)  Spanish (25)  French (24)  Italian (23)  German (10)  Finnish (5)  Swedish (5)  Catalan (4)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (476)
Showing 1-25 of 375 (next | show all)
Do not get bogged down or hung up on the philosophy or vocabulary in this book, (one reader suggests having a dictionary close at hand)because beneath all of that is a heatwarming, brilliant, witty, bittersweet story.

I will read this again!

"Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terrible elegant. "
— Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Do not get bogged down or hung up on the philosophy or vocabulary in this book, (one reader suggests having a dictionary close at hand)because beneath all of that is a heatwarming, brilliant, witty, bittersweet story.

I will read this again!

"Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terrible elegant. "
— Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
I absolutely loved this book. The trio of unique characters -- all wise, authentic and sharing a passion for literature, philosophy and art -- blended unexpectedly together. The writing is beautiful as was the story. ( )
  AmyKite | Apr 2, 2014 |
Elegance is a matter of taste, of preference, rather than an absolute.

Renee and Paloma are fish out of water. Renee is the building concierge in a fashionable apartment building in Paris and, to the shallow observer, Renee is anything but fashionable. She is from a modest, working-class family and unappealing to those who would look only on the surface. Paloma is the precocious, youngest daughter of a wealthy family in the building. She refuses any attempt at inclusion in the privileged world of her family. What courses beneath the surface for both of these women is a rich, complex internal life. Though she never finished a formal education, Renee has schooled herself in literature and philosophy and art. And Paloma, though merely eccentric appearing, has calculated the meaninglessness of life and is planning a grand suicide on the date of her thirteenth birthday party.

There is an elegance to Barbery’s novel, though it is diluted by a careless narrative, a lack of good editing, and a saccharine ending. Renee and Paloma are exquisite characters with a depth and complexity that is rare in literature. The irony of their lives would be a joke if they were any less authentic. But Barbey was enchanted by her own characters to the point of distraction and the narrative suffers for it. There could be nothing better for these two characters than for them to meet. But they don’t even admit to noticing each other until over halfway through the novel, and then only after a mutual acquaintance forces the issue.

So what happens in the first half of the book? That’s where a good editor could have been helpful. Up until the point that Renee and Paloma become aware of each other, they indulge their internal lives. Though the intrigue in their characters is a result of listening to their thoughts, Barbery allowed the exercise to go on a little too long. Renee’s biting insights on her employers are charming and witty at first, but then tiring. And Paloma’s philosophical musings on life are exposed as too smart for even the most precocious twelve year olds as they drag on. Barbery could have accomplished the same complexity without allowing the narrative to get lost.

Finally, the ending here is too neat, too shocking by miles. I won’t spoil it for anyone who reads the book, but the vehicle Barbery uses to bring a change in the lives of her characters is abrupt and ultimately trite.

If it sounds like I didn’t like [The Elegance of the Hegdehog], that’s not quite right. I enjoyed a great deal of the book, especially the two principal characters. But I think the overall experience was clouded by what I saw as wasted potential. I began to write my own narrative for Renee and Paloma, imagining what I thought their meeting and lives would be like together. So, I’d recommend the book but with a caution that you might have some disappointment along the way.

Bottom Line: Complex and intriguing characters in a narrative that gets a little lost and a novel that needs a little more editing.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Mar 30, 2014 |
This was an enjoyable read! Originally in French, but recently translated into English, it's about a concierge and a 12-year-old girl who live in the same building. They're both intellectual, but they try to hide it from everyone (how very French). The book is all about their relationships with other people who live in that building, and their relationship with each other. I really didn't like the ending (also very French...), but the rest of the book was cute and quite funny! ( )
  goet0095 | Mar 27, 2014 |
This is one of those books that you're not sure you like or understand it while you're reading it but when you look at it as a whole after you're finished you realize it is a great work of literature. So my advice to the reader is to read it all the way through before coming to any conclusions. ( )
  rxtheresa | Mar 26, 2014 |
rabck from glade1, an oppem book, for TLC bookclub; Wow - it wasn't at all what I expected, especially the ending. Renee is the concierge in a posh apartment building. She puts on an identity for the building residents of a dowdy widow, and that's the opposite of who she is. When Kokuro moves in, he and the teen Paloma figure out who Renee really is. Very dense writing, this needs to be read at a slow pace to absorb all that the story is trying to convey. My favorite phrase"...searching for those moments of always within never". This book is rabck'd to dukefan86 on behalf of dvg in the tag game. ( )
  nancynova | Mar 24, 2014 |
Wow, that's an annoying book. You can expect a pre-teen, especially a smart one, to have these DEEP THOUGHTS...but the book presents them as actual insights. Sheesh. Madame Michel is even more annoying - she's intelligent, but incredibly stupid, with her hiding away. And if you're going to have a character go into paroxysms of rage over a misplaced comma, you MAY not thereafter mess up the language - "seven am in the morning", sheesh. OK, by the end of the book I _finally_ got a clue about the hiding - before that, I'd decided the entire reason for it was so that Paloma and Kakuro would have something to do. But the insights, such as they are, at the end of the book - are too close to the end, too rushed. I slogged through nine tenths of the book with nothing but idiocy. The last tenth is actually good, in relaying insights and understanding, but the well is already poisoned. And then the cheap shot ending, that solves all problems. UGH. I'm sorry I read this, and it's a painful example of why I don't read "literature". ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Mar 19, 2014 |
3.5 stars
Finally done with it, will review it some other time. ( )
  pathogenik | Mar 2, 2014 |
Copy on the back cover says something like, 'Resistance is futile. You might as well go ahead and buy a copy before someone in your book club suggests it.'

Sure enough, someone in my book club suggested it, which has the strange effect of ramming home how much of a cliche I have become! No one likes to be predictable...

The story reminded me of lots of things, and of people... Sophie's World first and foremost, for its philosophy embedded in the fictional life of a woman/girl. Interestingly, Palome's birthday is June 16, which is one day after Sophie's of Sophie's World. (I only remember that because my own birthday is the same as Sophie's.)

Renee was an endearing character who reminded me of a man I worked with briefly in a postal sorting room. He had worked in the basement of a charity housing corporation all his life after a brief stint as a bus conductor and told me one day that he had many regrets, mainly because as a youth he'd showed a strength in mathematics. Yet his whole life was spent sorting mail on minimum wage, listening to Christian sermons every day after lunch.

Renee also reminded me of my time as a cleaner at the university where I studied concurrently. It's true that even middle class people look straight through people in such lowly positions, and treat the concierge/cleaner as being in possession of less than the full quid.

Also in the box of books was the film adaptation, which is really quite close to the plot of the book minus a lot of the philosophical musings. The film, like the book, feels very French. Palome was played disturbingly accurately by a young actress who reminded me that I'm not a fan of the precocious child as a device in films. I don't mind them quite so much in novels though, for some reason.

I'll be interested to see what other members of bookclub thought of this novel. Overall it felt self-consciously literary to me, but I'll acknowledge that this is probably due partly to my own shortcomings as reader. I feel I should have enjoyed this more, partly because I'm a bit of a Japanophile myself, like the main characters, and love films, and have recently been fascinated by phenomenology. So I'm not sure why I don't feel a bit more positive about this book. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
OK, so Renée, the concierge, is a 54-year-old woman and so am I, but that's not why I loved this book so much (although it made it more personal for me). I loved this book because of its emphasis on finding the beauty in the small moments, on thinking deeply about what life means, and on appreciating life. It's one of my favorite books and I recommend it to everyone. ( )
  StormySleep | Feb 6, 2014 |
OK, so Renée, the concierge, is a 54-year-old woman and so am I, but that's not why I loved this book so much (although it made it more personal for me). I loved this book because of its emphasis on finding the beauty in the small moments, on thinking deeply about what life means, and on appreciating life. It's one of my favorite books and I recommend it to everyone. ( )
  StormySleep | Feb 6, 2014 |
Quando nacque mio padre mia nonna piantò una camelia rosa carico e oggi si contemplano a vicenda. ( )
  nectocaris | Feb 5, 2014 |
If you do not enjoy deep philosophical thought you will not like this book. I have read many of the reviews and can agree with much of what is said both good and bad. I am a thinker, actually I think too much and I like to analyze people, which is why in the end I liked this book. To borrow another reviewer’s words to describe what the book is ultimately about,”It's a book about questioning the stereotypes we assign to others and about questioning the roles we put ourselves in.” I enjoyed both protagonist and shared many of their beliefs. I really enjoyed the snarky attitude of Palmora! The negative part for me was the fact that I was woefully lacking in knowledge of much of the vocabulary Miss Barbery used. Maybe it’s a French thing or it really is my ignorance but I found it an opportunity to look up new words. It was difficult in the beginning and I almost gave up but I hardly ever do that so with a snowbound day I set to it and began to fall in love with the characters and their perceptions of those around them. Definitely not a light read but I think an enlightening one. ( )
  theeccentriclady | Jan 19, 2014 |
Beautiful writing. That alone makes this book one to keep. I'll probably end up buying a paper copy, so as to have it on the bookshelf. It's a rich story, and the characters in it are people, with internal lives, and depth. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 16, 2013 |
First of all, the English translation reads very well. The language flows well and doesn't seem like a translation a tall, so hats off to the translator.
Second of all, as I was reading the book, and now that I am finished, I kept wanting this book to be only about Renee (excuse the lack of accents here.) The voices are perfect. Paloma is perfectly voiced as a young brat, and Renee as a 54-year-old solitary woman. Paloma... indeed, a brat, as confessed by her very self, and not really much more than that. I kept wondering what Paloma adds to the story, what we know and see that we did not already know with her account of things. Or couldn't we have found out about Paloma through Renee? Wouldn't that be better? Paloma flat out annoyed me most of the time. Even at the end. I suppose this is the desired effect. She is intellectually an adult, and emotionally, well, a teenager more than a child, so really unbearable. What she adds, I suppose, is the inside view to her family, but then again, nothing we did not know, nothing that really adds to much.
The real story is Renee. The real wonder, the real triumph of the book is Renee's life, her little pleasures, her old and budding friendships, her marriage, her cat. I do agree with some of the other readers, that the philosophizing gets a bit too much sometimes. In that regard, I much prefer Isabel's musings in Sunday Philosophy Club to Renee's attempt at stretching a shocking instant to several [small] chapters of wanderings on philosophy and Art (with a capital A.) But, still I kept reading, wanting to know more about Renee.
A problem I had was the pacing. The first truly interesting thing happens on page 143 (of the version I have.) And things develop rather fast, say in the last 100 pages. Perhaps this is to reflect the 54 years of secretive lower-class-yet-self-taught-intellectual life Renee has lived and the sudden changes that come upon this static life that beg for immediacy. But a little less of the beginning, and a bit more of the new developments would have made a better read. Of course, all of this could have been helped if Paloma was not interjecting every two pages with some useless immature-yet-intellectual nag about her oh-so-rich-and-so-unbearable life. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
Beautiful writing. That alone makes this book one to keep. I'll probably end up buying a paper copy, so as to have it on the bookshelf. It's a rich story, and the characters in it are people, with internal lives, and depth. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Nov 28, 2013 |
I finally got around to reading this much lauded French novel from a few years back. It was written by a woman who is a philosophy professor and it very much shows. Very erudite language and concepts as Barbery attempts to make complex philosophical thoughts accessible via her two protagonists - Madame Michel, the concierge at an upscale building in Paris, who hides her intelligence and her true personality away as she deems herself too unworthy to mix with the upper echelon of society. And Paloma, the misfit 12 year old, daughter of the rich family on the 4th floor, who is desperately seeking some meaning to her young life. Against the odds, along with a mysterious Japanese man who moves into the building, the three of them find each other kindred spirits. . .

So a bit hokey and unrealistic and despite the attempt to make the philosophy seem important to the average reader, the book dragged at parts. For instance, the camellia - just didn't really move me. But readable and enjoyable nonetheless, I just didn't find it as affecting as many others. I did love the shout-outs to 'Anna Karenina,' -- I agree with Renee and Ozu on that one - probably my favorite all-time book.

So definitely a unique, quick read with some memorable characters. Some will find much of it to obscure to be enjoyable, some parts seem skimmable especially the 'deep thoughts' at the end of each chapter. The ending was abrupt but somehow aesthetically pleasing, sadly. I am glad I read it but won't look for her other title which apparently is about one of the other residents in the building we are introduced to in this novel. ( )
1 vote jhowell | Nov 26, 2013 |
We see the world through the eyes of two women: the fifty-something widow who is the concierge for a fancy Paris apartment building, and the twelve-year-old daughter of one of the resident families. Both are extremely bright and hiding it for fear of... what? A new resident, a Japanese man who does not wear the blinders that all the locals seem to, befriends both and helps them to question their need to hide.

I enjoyed all the characters of this book. I wondered about the translation in a few places, but the text flows pretty nicely. Most of the book contains the reflections of the two main characters. I am often impatient with this sort of writing, but in this case the characters kept me interested. How did they come to see the world as they do? Is their view really less flawed than the views of those around them? What can happen that will be interesting and will cause them to reconsider their approaches?

There are a couple of mildly annoying sections, including Renee's reflections on phenomenology, but the sections are brief and the book moves along nicely. ( )
  Jim53 | Oct 27, 2013 |
This is one of those books that inspires great intensity of feeling. It made me examine (in what I hope is a lasting way) some of the notions that I hold concerning what is beautiful, what is meaningful, what is the purpose and significance of our lives.

"It would be so much better if we could share our insecurity, if we could all venture inside ourselves and realize that green beans and vitamin C, however much they nurture us, cannot save lives, nor sustain our souls."

"The peace of mind one experiences on one's own, one's certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship."

"But I feel like letting other people be good for me -- after all, I'm just an unhappy little girl and even if I'm extremely intelligent, that doesn't change anything, does it? An unhappy little girl who, just when things are at their worst, has been lucky enough to meet some good people. Morally, do I have the right to let this chance go by?" ( )
1 vote ratastrophe | Oct 25, 2013 |
An account of two people, one old and one young, who feel alienated due to their great intelligence and how they, with the help of a Japanese gentleman, finally gain some insight into the meaning of life. Some of the philosophy seemed trite but overall the book was enthralling ( )
  snash | Oct 23, 2013 |
I didn't know what to expect from The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It is a story about two people, two females, one of advanced age and another approaching her teens. I wasn't quite sure how I would relate or if this novel would really take hold. Lucky for me, I got an excellent novel filled with philosophical musings and packed with emotion. I finished the novel with tears in my eyes. I don't think you can ask more from a novel. The characters were wonderfully developed and I was surprised by how quickly and unexpectedly I cared for the characters. It was chapter nine, Red October (the story of Lucien and the movies) that clued me in to this fact. The last chapter was also quite moving for me. Here are a few lines that I liked that give nothing away:

"On the way home I thought: pity the poor spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of the language." page 160

"As far as I can see only psychoanalysis can compete with Christians in ther love for drawn-out suffering." page 166

"Art is life, playing in different rhythms." ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
A sweet book about clear-seeing, i.e. seeing what is really in front of you whether beautiful or ugly, rather than what you want to see. It's also about a bunch of other things: class relations, art, philosophy, snobbery, meaning vs. meaninglessness, what true intelligence is, (and what is it good for?), and how people sometimes prevent themselves from finding true happiness.

All this sounds like a warm-fuzzy wrapped in a personal affirmation scented with camellias and delivered with sprinkly cupcakes to your frontdoor with a copy of Eat Pray Love, right? But the book cleverly counterbalances this with a healthy dose of skepticism and misanthropy.

The conclusions are still too easy/obvious sometimes, but I would rather a book risk the dangers of sentimentalism than sit comfortably on its sanitized throne of intelligent and secure discourse.

There is very little plot, but instead we get a series of monologues, philosophical asides and observations from two of the main characters. One is an elderly concierge, and the other is a precocious 12 year old girl. Both belong to that class of human beings that most other human beings ignore: they are invisible in the grand scheme of things. Yet under the surface, they live rich and imaginative lives.

I would say that there is a little bit too much black and white in this novel, though. I felt like the characters you were supposed to root for were a little too blameless and noble in their intentions, and the ones who were shallow ignoramuses were just that.

Especially true of this is the character of Kakuro Ozu, who is like some kind of angel of Eastern wisdom and exoticism meets Western intelligence and sophistication, without a blemish in sight. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the guy, but he didn't seem very real to me.

OK, now is the part of the review where I implore you to PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. Except, when I say THIS BOOK, I don't mean The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It was good, but while I was reading it I was thinking: "Anybody who loves this book MUST read [b:The Summer Book|2263969|The Summer Book|Tove Jansson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320565854s/2263969.jpg|76813] by Tove Jansson!"

In fact, any of [a:Tove Jansson|45230|Tove Jansson|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1207243487p2/45230.jpg]'s books for adults would equally fit the bill. Jansson's and Barbery's styles are very different, but the idea of these young and old characters who can relate on another common level of intuitive intelligence is common to both. And Jansson leaves much more unsaid, which frankly, is much more affecting and Ozu-like.

And speaking of Ozu, one last recommendation, because I'm feeling extra pushy today: I must agree with Renee Michel (the concierge), that if you haven't already seen all of Yasujiro Ozu's movies, you should run out and see them now. ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
Whoever translated this from the French is an excellent writer themselves. The language is nothing short of elegant, and reminiscent of Ondaatje. The story is simple but the characters are so vivid and special, they draw you in. Simply a lovely read from start to finish (and the twist in the end isn't bad, either). ( )
  Davida.Chazan | Sep 7, 2013 |
Humanity. It’s what The Elegance of The Hedgehog is about.

Renée has been the concierge of 7 Rue de Grenelle in Paris for twenty-seven years. Known as Madame Michel, she is intelligent and well read, particularly in philosophy, but conceals it in order to “correspond so very well to what social prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge.”

Paloma Josse is a twelve year-old resident of 7 Rue de Grenelle, where she lives with her wealthy, clueless parents and older sister. Highly intelligent, preternaturally observant and “hypersensitive to anything that is dissonant,” she hides her true self from most people.

Kakuro Ozu, a wealthy Japanese widower moves into the building. He, Renée, and Paloma form a friendship as three people who appreciate each other and a different way of seeing life from most other people. As they become close, Renée feels that her status as a concierge, and a past incident in her life, doesn’t allow her to consort with the wealthy, particularly Kakuro Ozu.

The Elegance of The Hedgehog has beauty, thoughts about the meaning of life, and wonderful moments throughout. It’s a delicious and exceptional book. ( )
  Hagelstein | Aug 18, 2013 |
Showing 1-25 of 375 (next | show all)

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.81)
0.5 12
1 83
1.5 15
2 150
2.5 61
3 383
3.5 177
4 752
4.5 159
5 658


Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions


An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

» Publisher information page

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

The Elegance of the Hedgehog [Audio Edition] by Muriel Barbery was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 89,456,123 books! | Top bar: Always visible