The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I found this audiobook while putting audiobooks back on the shelf at the libary. I have always loved hedgehogs, including leaping out of a jeep in the Orkney Islands and going nose to nose with a hedgehog in the middle of the country roadway. The hedgehog in this work is a middle aged woman who is a concierge in a posh Parisian apartment house (think Park Avenue). Her husband has passed away and she hides her intellingence and culture behind a facade of the stereotypical concierge. She is prickly and common on the outside but an elegant creature inside.

The chapters alternate between chapters narrated by Paloma, a bright, introspective girl who plans to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday. She writes of Things in the World and her Deep Thought of the Day. The concierge narrates how she detests most of the haughty people in the building. She is not formally educated but very intelligent and self-taught. Her best friend is a Portuguese house keeper Manuella who brings dark chocolate cookies and Madeleines to afternoon tea.

The audiobook started off slowly and I was getting bit tired of how the concierge riffs off on how smart she is and how inferior everyone else in the building is except in material wealth. Things spiced up when an older prominent Japanese film maker moves in and sets the tongues wagging. Paloma and Renee, the concierge, are the two to be chosen as his guests. Renee is invited to wonderful evening of ramen and conversation on Mozart and Vermeer. She is beginning to think she will not be alone the rest of her life after all.

Barbery, Muriel. (2006). The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Translated from the French by Alison Anderson (2008), Europa Editions. 2009 HighBridge Company. Read by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris. 9 1/2 hours on 8 CDs. New York Times Bestseller. ISBN-13: 978-1-59887-925-4.


About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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