Customer Reviews for

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Average Rating 4
( 366 )
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(142)

4 Star

(101)

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(56)

2 Star

(36)

1 Star

(31)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

32 out of 33 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 38 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 May 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

    In its narrative presentation, the work reminds one of classic French theater, with the two principal protagonists speaking their lines directly to the reader. There is, however, more than a little romanticism in this delightful exploration of the meaning of life from the perspectives of a self-educated middle-aged female concierge in an upscale Paris apartment building and of a precocious twelve-year-old girl who lives there. Although I was somewhat detached during my reading of the first half of the novel, I found myself drawn inexorably into the story and was thoroughly invested in it by the time I reached its unexpected ending. My only real criticism is that in the process of establishing Madame Michel as a genuine, though camouflaged intellectual autodidact, the author patronizes the reader. Presumably a reader who still would be reading the work after the first few chapters would be expected to know one of the most famous opening lines in world literature, Tolstoy's immortal opening of Anna Karenina (or at least know where to look it up). Nevertheless, the author patiently explains the provenance to the reader, thereby diminishing the effect of an otherwise well-crafted scene. On the whole, I recommend the book and look forward to more tales of the idiosyncratic yet universal denizens of number 7, rue de Grenelle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2010

    Better than the Movie

    Read the book before going to the cinema. It's much better!

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  • Posted May 4, 2010

    Wonderful Listening

    I listened to the audio version of this book and think it's definitely a book that lends itself to listening. The two women who read the parts of Renee and Paloma are just wonderful. They are very expressive and one gets the true feeling of listening in on the lives of the residents of the apartment building. A friend who also listened to the audio version agreed that this story really comes alive in the audio. The personlities of M. Ozu and Manuela and everyone else are wonderfully portrayed in the reading. Yes, as others have stated, this is a book of ideas and philosophy as opposed to plot. But the acting talent of the readers lent so much to my enjoyment and understnding of the book.

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  • Posted April 27, 2010

    My husband and I listened to this book while on a long car trip. I have to admit that I fell asleep a few times during the first discs.

    As we forced ourselves to listen, we became more interested and were able to stay focused. The author takes awhile to develop the characters and the plot is small compared to the character formation and philosophical tangents. The writing did sound beautiful and complicated - this book is probably better to be read. I did not like the ending as I like happy conclusions generally, and it didn't seem fitting with the direction the author was heading with the characters. Our bookclub had a very intense discussion and for the most part felt it was a worthwhile read. My advice is not to listen to it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

    A novel that only a French woman professor of Philosophy could write with stimulating philosophical musings, simple but effective plot lines, characters that you rooted for and grew to appreciate and love. Only a French author could put off talking about Husserl and phenomenology and a dumpy middle-aged custodian of an apartment complex in Paris and make it work.
    Fr. John Itzaina, SDB

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Keep reading and rereading

    This is a chsllenging read. Beautifully written with characters you know as friends (some of them). It takes at least 50 pages to get the basis for the book. I started rereading at that point and enjoyed it all. Why take this trouble? Because it's such a thought-provoking book, lots for introspection. My book club had one of the best conversations about this book; all with different comments. I was sorry when it ended, as I was with my recommended books. I will read it again someday.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Loved it!

    This is an emotionally resonant & intellectually satisfying book about the human condition.

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  • Posted February 12, 2010

    Well written, yes, but not for everyone.

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog is more of an intellectual read, best savored chapter by chapter. While it does reveal some philosophical insights, the plot itself and some of the musings of the main characters tend to lean towards the predictable, and may be dull for readers of action-driven works. Overall, Barbery is a talented writer, able to maintain age-appropriate thought processes for both Renee and Paloma, and draws her readers into the character's world, if not into the plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    The Elegence of the Hedgehog

    I had a hard time figuring out how the characters were related to each other in the beginning of the book and how the author changed characters by fonts. Names were introduced often without explanation.

    It reminded me of "Catcher in the Rye" in some respects. Each of the characters viewpoints are presented, one of a going-to-be teenager and the other as an older adult. However, as the book progresses we see how these two lives come together from very different backgrounds and find what it means to be confident human beings. The author has woven the lives of these two characters, as well as the lives of the tenants of this elegant Parisian residence into a heartfelt and thought provoking read. I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Mixed Feelings...

    I actually enjoyed this book though it was a long slow start to get it going. It is a very complicated read and I'm not sure who I would recommend it to amongst my book loving friends. The main characters are quirky but become quite lovable if you can stick with it. At first i didn't think I would finish it, but am glad I did. This book is not for everyone, but I am glad I read it.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    Mission Elegantly Accomplished

    I purchased this to read something outside of my usual boxes. Mission accomplished. Although this is not an initially gripping work, the reader becomes easily invested in the characters. The story is not original; however, the presentation is elegantly refreshing. It's a great conversation piece for lovers of Art, literature, classical music, and philosophy. In the end, it was a good book; and I enjoyed reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2009

    Really Wonderful Book

    This is a very thought provoking book. It is not for those looking for a light story and aren't willing to invest the time to stick with something. The first section of the book is very philosophical in nature and is a bit of a lengthy set up....but it's worth it. I thought both the main characters AND the supporting characters were great. And there are so many great snippets of wisdom in this book, you want to re-read it to absorb it all. The ending brought me to tears and was done superbly. I would recommend this book for more literary readers and those with some depth to their mind and heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

    Excellent read

    Very well written & intellectually stimulating

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An inspirational story that captivates the heart

    This story is among the most interesting I have read. It causes you to define the true meaning in life and it switches between the point of view of two characters, one of which thinks that life is of no meaning and the other who appreciates life but hides from the world. This is a very inspiring book with a simple plot and strong themes. You may find by the end of it you have a whole new definition on life yourself.

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  • Posted October 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Radical Reading: The Elegance Of The Hedgehog

    This deep and phenomenal novel takes you deep into the thoughts of two very different people. Paloma is a character that shows astonishing intellect at a very young age. She deals with conflicts much larger than herself, such as suicide. Renee' deals with self esteem and ignorance. Both gripping and dramatic; you follow the characters throughout the book. Muriel Barbery embraces issues and shows how to deal with them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2009

    worthwhile

    good writing

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Elegance of the book!

    I thought this was a wonderful and thought-provoking book. It took a while to get involved, but so worth staying with it. As the lives and personalities of the characters are revealed, from young to older, and they intertwine, this becomes one of the most poignant books I've read.

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  • Posted September 3, 2009

    Interesting....

    Entertaining. Nice reading. Surprise ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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