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Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Writer: Muriel Barbery

Publisher: Europa Editions (2009)

Pages: 325 p

Bought at:Kinokuniya Nge Ann City (SGD 26.00)

I’ve never heard of Muriel Barbery before, and the only reason I bought her book was because it has good reviews in Amazon. Well, the reviews are not entirely wrong, but unfortunately, not very acurate either (at least, for me).

The story revolves around two main characters: Renee, the concierge of a posh apartment building in Paris; ugly and uninteresting, but secretly very devoted to art, philosophy, and music in a way that autodidacts do. Along the book, we were taken to see life through Renee’s eyes, with her beautiful philosphical mind.

In that building, also lives Paloma, a super-clever twelve-year-old girl, the youngest in her family. Dissapointed and saw the world as meaningless, she had decided to end her life in her thirteenth birthday. Counting down until the D-day, Paloma tried hard to capture the world around her in a journal, and wrote about every precious moment in the middle of her desperation.

Both Renee and Paloma lived in their own world, invisible to the others and hiding their true talents. Until one day, their world turned upside down when a new tennant came into the apartment, a Japanese man named Ozu. Very different from other people in the apartment, Ozu could see deep into Paloma and Renee’s heart, and made friends with them. Together they searched a true meaning of life through the beauty of art.

To be honest, this book was not quite what I expected. The language was a bit difficult (especially in Renee’s part), and some of the dialogues and jokes were out of my understanding (too French, because this book was translated from French). But I think if I read the original version (assuming I could speak French fluently, hehe), I would smile and laugh and think and cry together with the characters in the book. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury (yet!). So for now, I just want to try loving the book a little bit more than I did.

I also read this book as a part of Twenty Ten Challenge for “Who Are You Again?” category. Now, 14 more to go!