Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Intros: The Elegance of the Hedgehog


My name is Renée. I am fifty-four years old. For twenty-seven years I have been the concierge at number 7, rue de Grenelle, a fine hôtel particulier with a courtyard and private gardens, divided into eight luxury apartments, all of which are inhabited, all of which are immense. I am a widow, I am short, ugly, and plump, I have bunions on my feet and, if I am to credit certain early mornings of self-inflicted disgust, the breath of a mammoth. I did not go to college, I have always been poor, discreet, and insignificant. I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly— though always polite— I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases. 
Similarly, it has been decreed that concierges watch television interminably while their rather large cats doze, and that the entrance to the building must smell of pot-au-feu, cabbage soup, or a country-style cassoulet. I have the extraordinary good fortune to be the concierge of a very high-class sort of building. It was so humiliating for me to have to cook such loathsome dishes that when Monsieur de Broglie - the State Councilor on the first floor- intervened (an intervention he described to his wife as being "courteous but firm," whose only intention was to rid our communal habitat of such plebeian effluvia), it came as an immense relief, one I concealed as best I could beneath an expression of reluctant compliance.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery

Blogger opinion has been divided over The Elegance of the Hedgehog, so I am approaching it with some trepidation. It does seem to be agreed that the audio version, with its dual narrators, is the better choice. This is definitely a novel of ideas. After three CD's, the plot is nearly nonexistent but, so far, it's a nice change of pace.

Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.

36 comments:

  1. I do love that intro...I laughed..and I've loved all the Europa's I read so I'll definitely read this one at some point. I should see if my library has the audio.

    Honestly, now that I've read the intro, I am more anxious then before to try this one. Thanks JoAnn.

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  2. I was disappointed in this but my husband liked it very much, so we had divided opinion inside my own house! :--) It really makes you want pastry though...

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  3. I thought the book was a masterpiece. The story of a woman in a job where people expect certain things and do not look beyond the surface, or at least, most people.

    the only thing I hated about the book was the ending. I loved the characters, the plot which was every day life, and the ideas!

    amazing and highly recommended.

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  4. Sounds interesting to me and worth investigating further.

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  5. What you've shared here sounds interesting; however, it doesn't pique my interest enough to add The Elegance of the Hedgehog to my reading list.

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  6. I loved this book! It was my first ever Europa and really got me interested in reading other Europas.

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  7. What amazes me is that the idea of audio never occurred to me. I would approach it with trepidation too. People either love it or hate it. But audio. Hmmm...

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  8. I've read a few chapters of this book but had to put it down because of review deadlines. I am excited to read the entire book soon! My husband enjoyed it...he loves philosophy & ideas...I hope you enjoy it! These pargraphs are great I think!

    Happy reading Joann!

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  9. That was a good intro to the story. Yes, I would keep going. I want to know more about this woman who is making herself sound so negative. She can't be all that bad. There must be more.

    I have a First Paragraph today. If you have a chance to visit, I'm here: Quirky Girls Read

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  10. I like the sound of it.

    And I see you are reading On Chesil Beach. I LOVED that book, are you enjoying it?

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  12. There were parts of the book I liked. But the philosophy...urgh.

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  13. I have picked up this book at least twenty times between the bookshops and library and it never comes home with me! Perhaps it's just a compulsive disorder thing...

    Sam has me intrigued by On Chesil Beach though!

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  14. I've been on the fence on this one due to the reviews as well.

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  15. Yep, you're certainly right about the division within the blogging world. I'm going to wait and see wha tyou think!!

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  16. I loved this book. At times, I felt enchanted by it.

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  17. This sounds unusual so I would keep reading (or listening as the case may be).

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  18. I read this book 2.5 years ago-I loved it-it was one of the very first books I posted about on my blog

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  19. Diane - I'm enjoying this much more than expected! Will be reading more Europa editions for sure.

    Rhapsodyinbooks - Oh, no... I have so little will power!

    Brenda - This is such an intriguing book! Not at all like what I usually read or listen to...at the half-way point now.

    Kaye - It's very unusual, but definitely holding my interest.

    Ruthi - I've been avoiding this for a couple of years, but am glad to finally find the 'right' time.

    Reviewsbylola - I think I'll be able to say the same thing... bring on the Europas!

    Sandy - Audio is definitely the way to go with this one. Lends itself perfectly to dual narrators, but definitely a novel of ideas.

    Amy - This is definitely a good choice for anyone interested in philosophy. I don't know anything beyond my intro class in college, but am surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.

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  20. Margot - Oh, there is definitely more! I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying it.

    Sam - Only 50 pages in, but I think On Chesil Beach is a beautiful novel... it's going to be a heart-breaker, I think.

    Softdrink - I hated my intro to philosophy class in college, but really enjoyed the book Sophie's World... go figure.

    Darlene - I've been picking this up in the bookstore for the past couple of years, too... reading a few pages and putting it down. The time seems right now and I'm really enjoying it. We'll see how I feel at the end.

    Nise' - It is hard to decide when opinions vary so widely... glad I chose to give it a try.

    Staci - I'm still intrigued at the half-way point, but this sure isn't a book for everyone. I can see why opinions are all over the place!

    Lee - There have surely been some shining moments... glad I finally picked this up!

    DCMetroreader - Very unusual, indeed...but I'm interested to see where it ends up.

    Mel u - I'll look for your review after I've finished. I'm completely captivated by the two narrators!

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  21. After you have finished reading the book, I invite you to compare notes on the book. Here is my Review of Elegance of the Hedgehog Let me know what you think about the book/audio.

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  22. yeah, there's almost no plot :-) hopefully you enjoy it for the characters cause virtually nothing happens.

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  23. Marie - Thankfully, I am intrigued with the characters. The audio is good because it gives them another dimension... I enjoy hearing their 'voices'.

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  24. I was so pleased to see this book discussed as I was not aware of its existence. I was lucky enough to see it recently in film form at an art house in the Boston, MA area. It is commercially made and in French with sub-titles. The actress who played the "hedgehog" was excellent and I recommend the movie if it opens in your area. The commercial title is
    The Hedgehog".

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  25. Kay Clifton - Thank you for telling me! I'm off to search Netflix now...will watch as soon as I've finished listening. Hope they have it available.

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  26. I had mixed feelings about this one. The beginning just dragged for me but I really liked the second half and I'm sure I wouldn't have if the first half had not set it up so well.

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  27. Lisa - I think that will be my experience with this novel, too. There was a pretty dramatic rise in my level of interest at the half way point... hope to finish later this week.

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  28. I read it a few monthes ago et didn't like it too much. Like Brenda, I didn't like the endind at all

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  29. Annie - I have finished the book and ended up liking it, but the beginning was very slow. The end was a total shock!

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  30. I see that you finished it. The end was slow and the end was a shock. Glad you liked it :)

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  31. Stacybuckeye - The ending certainly shocked me! I'll work on a review next week.

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  32. I've not read this one but I do remember mixed reviews.

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  33. Kathleen - I've finished now, and liked it overall... the ending was a shock!

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  34. I tried to read the printed version, but couldn't get interested. I wound up listening to the audio and LOVED it! It takes a little while to get fully engaged in the plot (and characters), but it was worth the effort. I still find myself thinking about the ending...

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  35. Les - Even with the audio, it took me a long time to become invested in the characters. Ended up loving it, but still can't get over the ending! Will get caught up on reviews soon, I hope.

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