Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

ii:

Ah... the book I've been waiting for! A book that challenges, charms and comforts all in one go. And in what a way! Such a beautiful and charming book by Barbery.

Seriously though, what started as a reading assignment turned into a love affair. I loved this book. Barbery managed to create before us characters so beautiful in all their flaws that you couldn't help feeling for them. Yes, some of them were rather clichéd but that too was done with a tongue-in-the-cheek way that made it possible to laugh at their silliness.

I should read this book again... Mads, please tell me you liked it too!

M:

I did. Maybe not as passionately as you, but that's just your fault for building it up so much... ;) I really liked the style, with two different narrators and short chapters. It gave the reader time to think, created natural pauses in the book so that the reader had time to process what had just been said. Also, the study on movement bits were often hilarious. The little stories about the absurdity of situations (e.g. the battle for panties) made me chuckle.

I must admit though that the ending killed me. I have been feeling really depressed lately (it's that time of the year when it's getting darker and colder by the minute) and this wasn't very uplifting. Realistic and somehow beautiful but sad.

ii:

Yes, the ending was terrible! But in a way, it again made sense. After all, it did echo the Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, the book Renée loved so much.

The observations of Paloma were hilarious. She had a sharp eye and wit, she was so knowledgeable about the world, yet she was just a child. A child, trying to make sense out of the world.

M:

Yes, well, I haven't read Anna Karenina (yet, I'll give it another go soon, first time I was done in by Levin and his field ploughing and planting and tossed the book...). See, one's again a very solid reason to keep on with this project; you can't understand the references unless you've read all the classics. Now I'm bummed. And feel a little stupid.

What I also liked about the book was the way the writer treated the characters. Even though the book was essentially about Paloma and Mme Michel, the reader got a very good idea about the other characters as well, even though they weren't really even discribed. Know what I mean?
(The picture on the right is Josiane Balasko as Renée, in the 2009 movie adaptation by Mona Achache.)


ii:

Ah, maybe that's why I liked the book. It made me feel smart 'cause I have read Tolstoy so I got the references. Haha No, but really, it made you think. It challenged you. And that's what I love in a book. It's all there, just not all in your face.

Yes, I do! The earlier book by Barbery, The Gourmet (the book of the morning coffee teaser I posted a while back) is about the food critic that dies in this book, so I guess Barbery had the characters all made up in her head already. But I hadn't, and I don't think you need to have, read The Gourmet before this book. This was a complete story.

Incidentally, by the way, also K [editors' note: we claim to protect the innocent around here, so no names] loved the book. "It's the best book I've read in a long long while" is the more-or-less direct quote.

So people, don't just take our word for it. The Elegance of Hedgehog is a great book!

M:

I dind't know that! Fascinating, it all makes sense now. Barbery knows all the characters, what they're like and what do they think about things and therefore it just comes through in her writing without saying much. I love it, it's so effortless! So, dear readers, the verdict's in, the jury has spoken and now ya'll have to go and read it too!

We earned another 15 points in The 4 Month Challenge in the category "Read any book and then post a review" from this one.

Incidently, if you wish to read more, here is the New York Times story about the book.

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