Muriel Barbery The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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© By Sheila 

Book favorite: The 12-year-old Paloma and the aging Concierge Renée are connected by far more than their noble home. A story about an unusual friendship and the love for the beauty of this world.

Photo by Tales like Art, published with kind permission of dtv Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG.

Aren’t we all afraid, that our life is just a hamster wheel? That we only work ourselves through a given trail, until death and look back later with horror? In her great bestseller “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” Muriel Barbery tells the story of the highly intelligent, 12-year-old Paloma and the aging Concierge Renée. Both live in the same building, separated by two worlds and still become friends. Chance happens to be an ally and Paloma and Renée find each other. The two are connected by the love of art, literature and the beauty of this world.

While Renée hides her intelligence and education behind the mask of a grumpy concierge, Paloma is increasingly despairing of her family and the Parisian upper class. She has already defined her own expression for the dreaded hamster wheel: The goldfish bowl. And she does not want to end like a golden fish. So the decision is made: On her 13th birthday Paloma wants to take her own life. On the way to this date, she is accompanied by her diary about the “movement of the world”. Renée, on the other hand, is lonely and frustrated with her job and the inhabitants of the noble house on Rue de Grenelle.

With the friendship of the two begins a development, that doesn’t go unnoticed in the house. To make matters worse, a new resident moves in: The mysterious Monsieur Ozu. Things in Rue de Grenelle are starting to change dramatically …

This book is one of my absolute darlings. The wisdom and irony, with which Muriel Barbery illuminates the adult world, is remarkable. And even if, clearly, a broad vocabulary makes good authors: The one of Muriel Barbery is beyond. That alone, coupled with her astute sensitivity, is already an asset to readers. But reading starts to get really inspiring as soon as we feel the hardened protagonists stopping to only think about the beauty of this world. The author makes delicate threads and slowly weaves them into friendships, that slowly draw the characters into this beauty. A bit of kitsch is of course present in such a story about the love of beauty. Just as I love it.

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