The Elegance of the Hedgehog by French philosopher and novelist, Muriel Barbery, was the solution to a problem I’d had for quite a while. I had tried to read this book on several occasions and just “couldn’t get into it,” lost track, or just became bored. Listening to it in the audiobook format, however, kept me intrigued and compelled by the voices of the two masterful narrators.
One, Renee, a short, plump fifty-ish, purposefully dowdy concierge of “a bourgeois building in a posh neighborhood” was a persona to be reckoned with. She and her cat, Tolstoy, led a secret life. Unknown to her tenants, Renee was knowledgable in art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture.
Paloma, her super-smart, twelve-year-old foil who lives with her family on the fifth floor, does her very best to appear mediocre, when, in fact, like Renee, she is extraordinary. They are both in disguise! What blows their pretenses to smithereens is when Mr. Ozu, a wealthy Japanese man buys the building and moves in.
This is a “moving, witty and redemptive novel.” It deals with “quiet personal victories” that make the listener laugh, gasp, and cry at times. The novel itself and the writing, specifically, are wonderful. This was one of the best “reading”/listening experiences I have ever had.