Friday, December 16, 2011

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (Audio)


The Elegance of the Hedgehog 
by Muriel Barbery
Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris
HighBridge Company, 2009
9 hours and 34 minutes
source: purchased

One sentence summary (from publisher):
An enchanting New York Times and international best seller and award-winner about life, art, literature, philosophy, culture, class, privilege, and power, seen through the eyes of a 54-year-old French concierge and a precocious but troubled 12-year-old girl.

My thoughts will be brief, as I may truly be the last blogger to read or listen to The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The book has been exhaustively reviewed. Just type the title into Book Blogs Search Engine and you'll see what I mean.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an incredibly thought-provoking, cerebral novel. There isn't much in the way of plot and that made it hard for me to get involved initially. But once hooked, I was entranced. The ending came out of nowhere and was a complete surprise - I was dumbstruck.

This audio production is absolutely brilliant! Barbara Rosenblat is Madame Michele, the concierge, and Cassandra Morris is equally convincing as twelve-year-old Paloma. In fact, I think audio may actually be the best way to experience this novel. I may not have persevered through the slow beginning otherwise.

Passages I liked:
"I have read so many books...
And yet, like most autodidacts, I am never quite sure of what I have gained from them. There are days when I feel I have been able to grasp all there is to know in one single gaze, as if invisible branches suddenly spring out of nowhere, weaving together all the disparate strands of my reading - and then suddenly the meaning escapes, the essence evaporates, and no matter how often I reread the same lines, they seem to flee ever further with each subsequent reading, and I see myself as some mad old fool who thinks her stomach is full because she's been attentively reading the menu."  (page 53) 
"Madame Michel had the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress,but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant." (page 143)

My rating:
Half a start off for the slow start








21 comments:

  1. Actually, I think I'm the last blogger to read it -- I just started it yesterday for the Europa Editions Challenge. I am absolutely loving it so far. Thanks for the great review!

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  2. I read this as an audiobook too, and as happens so often, I think that enhanced the experience for me. I love the passages you chose...and, as you know, I thought the ending was brilliantly done.

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  3. no I haven't read it yet so you are not the last blogger to Col! I love the reviews I've been seeing and the cover is great so I will have to get this book. Merry Christmas everyone!

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  4. I didn't like this one as much as some others or even my husband, but I agree that by the time you get to the end you are hooked, and then you get that end.... gaaah!

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  5. I was liking it up until the ending. I HATED the book after that ending.

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  6. I haven't read this! yet... You and Jill and Ti have me intrigued.

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  7. This is the book that turned me on to Europas. It made a huge impact on me.

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  8. I really like the passages you included. I've been meaning to read this for far too long.

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  9. Hedgehog (how can you not love the title) was the very first book I posted on when I started my blog 2.5 years ago-I do not like the ending of the book at all but over all I loved the book

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  10. Just finished this one yesterday, and was so happy that I didn't give up. The beginning was painfully slow - I agree (audio here as well).

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  11. I didn't mind the end, but I got bogged down in the philosophy. I hate philosophy!! So that pretty much ruined the book for me.

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  12. I listened to this one too and agree that it's the best way to experience it. I don't think I would have made it through otherwise and I wouldn't have wanted to miss that ending!

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  13. this is one of the first books I reviewed on my blog :)

    Lately, I have considered re-reading it. Perhaps I should try the audio version instead.

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  14. I haven't read this one yet either! But from your review - sounds like I should consider the audio.

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  15. Col - Will keep an eye out for your review. I love Europa Editions!

    Audrey - I remember talking to you on twitter right after I finished... almost felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. What an ending!

    Peggy - Hope you are able to get to this book. If you listen to audios, that would definitely be the way to go.

    Rhapsodyinbooks - LOL... oh, that ending!

    Ti - Depending on your reaction, that ending can definitely make or break the book.

    Care - You have to read this!

    Reviewsbylola - This was my first Europa, too.

    Nymeth - I think you would like The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

    Mel U - Isn't it funny how we remember our first review? Mine was The Painted Veil.

    Diane - Yes, the beginning was painfully slow. I think it took me 2 or 3 CD's to get interested!

    Softdrink - I'm not a huge fan of philosophy either. Glad I started listening on a long drive... there was no escape!

    Stacybuckeye - I'm pretty sure I would have given up in print, too. So glad I stuck with it!

    Molly - The audio adds so much to the novel - the readers were amazing. Definitely the way to go for a re-read!

    Just Mom - Definitely go for the audio!!

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  16. I loved the audio and know I would've given up if I had read the printed version. The readers were outstanding and brought the story to life. I, too, was stunned by the ending...

    I gave the book the same rating for pretty much the same reason as you. And I noted the same passage. Great minds think alike!

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  17. This seems to be one of those books people either love or hate. I loved it!

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  18. You are not the last blogger! I haven't read it yet, but do have it sitting on my shelves. Glad to hear you enjoyed it and that the audio is good too.

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  19. Les - That is so funny! If I'd known our reviews were so similar, I could've just posted a link to yours ;-)

    Lisa - I agree. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground where this book is concerned.

    Iris - I should know by now, that none of us will ever be the LAST blogger to read something. All it takes is a statement like that and the comments pour in. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did :-)

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  20. Hmmm--I haven't read or listened to it either and I think you've convinced me that THIS is what I need to use my Audible credit on. Plus at 10 hours I could probably finish it before Christmas! :)

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  21. Trish - Be forewarned.... the beginning is REALLY slow.

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