Customer Reviews for

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Average Rating 4
( 367 )
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(142)

4 Star

(102)

3 Star

(56)

2 Star

(36)

1 Star

(31)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

34 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

Wonderful! One of the most beautiful books I've ever read.

I was weary of "Hedgehog" when my friends came to me in class on the day we picked what we would read for our book groups. We were all avid readers and didn't want to have to deal with students that would just use sparknotes in order to pass. This book looked interestin...
I was weary of "Hedgehog" when my friends came to me in class on the day we picked what we would read for our book groups. We were all avid readers and didn't want to have to deal with students that would just use sparknotes in order to pass. This book looked interesting enough, and also had the sort of difficultly that would scare off anybody we wanted to avoid.

I am only fifteen, and even though I like to read, I don't consider myself to be very intelligent. That being said, the book was very daunting at first. The language was complicated, and I always had a dictionary by my side and a pen in my hand so I could write in definitions. Reading was occasionally tedious. My group decided to create a blog with a vocabulary list, predictions, and chapter summaries. There were times where we poured ourselves over only a couple of pages until we finally found meaning. It was a bit like one large riddle, and we were determined to find meaning. After a while, the book either became a bit easier to read or we became accustomed to the language. It went from taking me an hour to read ten pages to zipping right through it.

Even though it was an effort to complete, every single one of us agreed that it was one of the best books we've ever read. This book will make you laugh, cry, contemplate, and take notice of things you may have never seen before.

posted by ManUpWearATeeShirt on June 13, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

15 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

How many weeks on the best sellers list?

I hated this book. Too much psycho babble and not enough story. I can't be the only person to feel this way!

posted by 124105 on September 6, 2009

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    Elegance of the Hedgehog-maybe

    This book almost made my bookclub list. I thought it was a pompous read for the first half of the book because the author felt it necessary to pound the point of the two key characters, a French concierge and a teenage resident in the apartment complex, having high levels of hidden intelligence. This hidden intelligence and the "real" elegant nature of these two characters is found behind the hedgehog facade. Neither character are very likable in the first half of the book. A cleaning woman friend of the concierge actually helps keep the book afloat from the beginning. That said, midway I was hooked into the story primarily through the introduction of a new resident, who appears to be the only person who sees the hidden elegance. Even though the reader will know this character will bring out the best in these two forlorn people, it is done in a winning way. I softened and enjoyed the transformation. This is not an earth scattering story, but it is one that tries to look beyond personal appearances and general expectations. I found myself easily picturing Yolanda Moreau, the wonderful actress of the French movie "Sapphine", as the concierge and it worked. To be fair, this is a translated work I believe and so some of the author's nuances may have been lost in translation. Spoiler alert: I cried.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Took a long time to get good

    This book was horrible until about 2/3 of the way through.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Recommended

    I enjoyed reading this and zipped through it pretty quickly. It was quite thought-provoking. A little heavy on the philosophy. I wish the author had concentrated a bit more on the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Good for your bookgroup

    I read this book for my book group. I highly recommend it for a book group. It promoted a lively discussion. The first half of the book is very slow and hard to get into. The first half is developing the characters. Once they finally interact, the book becomes more interesting. The end was very much faster paced.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    Slow start but strong finish

    I had a difficult time getting through the first half of the book but once the stories of the characters took off, I really enjoyed it. Make sure you read until the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    Not a bad read

    Elegance of the Hedgehog has it's moments, particularly when Renee speaks, but there are no "new" life lessons that haven't already been done in a better way by Marilynne Robinson or Arundhati Roy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Such fun peeking into the lives of these people.

    Enjoyed the exploration of the intimate thoughts and lives of the unusual group of people, who develop interesting friendships.
    They are brought together by the building they live in. They stumble on friendship.

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  • Posted April 11, 2013

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog By Muriel Barbery

    3 St

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog By Muriel Barbery<br />
    <br />
    3 Stars<br />
    <br />
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog is not something I would have ever questioned as a phrase and made no sense to me at all upon seeing the title of this book. Enter Renee', a fifty something concierge in a building full of rich employers. To them she is not worth their time or concern, always sitting in front of a TV sputtering worthless drivel, gaining more and more weight while being a rude uneducated individual. What you see or assume is not always what you get. Same can be true about Paloma, a 12 year old adolescent on the verge of teenhood. She is your average typical pre-teen who gets lost in the sea of like students. She also has decided to kill yourself on her 13th birthday because what is the point of going further? <br />
    <br />
    Renee' never steps foot in front of the driveling television. She spends time analyzing the rich and their lives while drinking tea with her cat Leo and reading major works of literature. Paloma goes through life doing what is expected of her, an act because she is far more complex then anyone can handle. Both are content to continue the ruse that is their lives until an unexpected event causes one Japanese man named Ozu to enter the scene and change their lives forever.<br />
    <br />
    I listened to the audio production of this. The narrators were well chosen and you felt the characters. The concierge had a course voice and Paloma oozed arrogance. I could feel like I was there with them. The book flowed well alternating between the concierge's story and Paloma's. They are separate people sharing the same world not realizing how much they are alike. <br />
    <br />
    The book caused me to think about life, assumptions, and the impact one can make. I questioned society and why we do the things we do as humans. I gave the book a 3 star rating not because I have any negative thoughts on it. I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I read it. It just was not the type of book to have me jumping up and down or overly impassioned. There is nothing wrong with that though, it served the purpose it was meant to serve.<br />

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    slow, difficult start, but gets much better

    Too much philosophy in first 1/3 of book....but overall, worth the work to get through those pages.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2011

    Jhh H

    Poopy

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Way too wordy

    We read this for my book club. It was much too abstract for my taste and way too wordy. It took entirely too long to get to the point. In the end, I liked the 2 main characters and the supporting characters, however. It just took WAY too long to get to that point. The ending was a huge disappointment.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2009

    Confusing at first, but stick with it.

    It was difficult following the story line at the beginning, but stick with it. This is the type of book that you think about for a while after you're done reading.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Rocky Road

    The story is told through the voice of two narrators and each of them has a tendency to elaborate on their inner thoughts and philosophy excessively. So for me very often the plot bogs down. Readers who enjoy philosophical discourses and inner dialogue might find these musings interesting, but I did not. The novel picks up speed in the second half, if the reader is able to stay with it for that long. The ending seemed abrupt and disconnected. I read this book with my book club and I should add that many there loved the book and very strongly disagreed with me.

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  • Posted July 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG: Does it pass the cherry plum test?

    I was unable to work up any sympathy for the self-denigrating protagonist of "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," Muriel Barbery's wildly popular novel, and a New York Times bestseller, of a Parisian concierge who works in an up-scale condominium, filled with upper-class, self-important, and foolish tenants.
    Ren&#233;e Michel is the self-described hedgehog of the story. She depicts her physical appearance in the most disparaging words of self-hatred. To this, she adds, defiantly, that she is neither friendly nor makes an effort to be liked. She is "the child of nothing, struggling to make her way in a world of privileged affluent people." Later we are asked to believe that the cause of Ren&#233;e's innate dislike of the rich has its origins in her sister's past misfortunes. Ren&#233;e takes a sadomasochistic pleasure in the fact that her appearance so matches up to the building tenants' narrow-minded expectations of a concierge. Secretly, she takes them to task for their faulty grammar, for their pretensions and social climbing, while she assumes-relishing this fact-that they regard her as boorish and stupid. What Ren&#233;e is hiding from them is her love of art, music, and literature. She spouts philosophy (albeit to herself and her cat) and dotes on all things Japanese.
    Just as we begin to weary of Ren&#233;e's philosophical musings, we are treated to the "profound" thoughts of Ren&#233;e's foil, Paloma, the 12-year-old daughter of wealthy tenants who faithfully journalizes her low judgment of others, as well as her plans for suicide and arson. Ren&#233;e and Paloma are equals in intelligence and disparaging wit, a fact both keep hidden from others and each other. In addition, they share a grudge against the world they live in: Ren&#233;e against the wealthy; Paloma against grownups.
    Eventually, the two become friends. The person who brings them together is the new tenant, Kakuro Ozu. He is a wealthy and cultured Japanese man, sought-after by his neighbors. As he has a gift for recognizing the truly intelligent who share his fine appreciation of art, in this fairy tale, Monsieur Ozu snubs his rich neighbors in favor of the lowly concierge and the bratty child. As Ren&#233;e and Kakuro sip tea, discuss art and literature, they discover that they are soul mates.
    Ren&#233;e is whisked off in a deus ex machine d&#233;nouement of the story, with Paloma having the last word as we're made to believe that the child somehow finds a sense of catharsis in this ridiculous ending.
    Although, I'm not able to read Ms. Barbery's work in the original French, in translation, her sentences are fluid and pleasing. While I'm not persuaded that the book is social satire motivated by a Swiftian spirit to mend the world, I found "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" a thought-provoking work. Furthermore, I applaud Europa edition for bringing us contemporary European literature in translation.
    Finally, the book should be judged by the author's own standards. Ms. Barbery, in the voice of Ren&#233;e, teaches us the cherry plum test by which to discern worthwhile literature. You eat the plum while you read the book and see if the book can hold its own against the fruit. Says Ren&#233;e, ". . . for there are very few works that have not dissolved-proven both ridiculous and complacent-into the extraordinary succulence of the little golden plums." In my opinion, "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," does not pass the c

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2009

    Touching Story If You Can Make It Through The First 140 Pages

    Most of my bookclub wanted to put it down before we all managed to get past the first 140 pages. It really shouldn't take more than half the book for a story to get interesting. That being said, the rest of it was quite wonderful. Even though their backgrounds/upbringing were very different, Paloma seemed to me to be a younger version of Rene.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2009

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    Posted January 20, 2011

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    Posted June 7, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2010

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