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Reader’s Den

Reader's Den: "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"


The Elegance of the Hedgehog, or L’Élégance du Hérisson, is a best-selling French novel written by the author Muriel Barbery and was translated into English by Alison Anderson. The novel centers around an upscale apartment in a well-to-do neighborhood of Paris and is alternately narrated by the concierge and a young female resident.

Renee Michel is the concierge and acts as a silent observer of the comings and goings of the building. She’s very mysterious in not giving any information about herself to anyone, and hides the fact that she is a very intelligent person. However, she isn’t fooling the young Paloma who is curious about Renee.

If you’ve started reading the novel feel free to start leaving your comments after the post and tell us what you think so far. Next week we’ll get the discussion started!


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I love the cover of this book

I love the cover of this book and have been meaning to read it for a while(sometimes you can judge a book by its cover!). I look forward to the next installment of the Reader's Den.

That's one of the reasons why

That's one of the reasons why I picked it up from the cover alone. Its a very quick read and I could see it produced as a movie. I took French in high school and it reminded me of a lot of the films we used to watch in class.

Lost in Translation

I was a little daunted by the opening premise of this book - a young girl who has resolved to kill herself! but was drawn in by the voice and the fascinating character of the concierge, as well as the witty critiques of materialism and pseudo-intellectualism. I recently returned from France where this book is very popular, and when I told French friends I was reading it in English they said that they could not possibly imagine how it could be translated. In French there are apparently many wordplays/jokes.

Many of the negative reviews

Many of the negative reviews were in regards to the translation of the novel! But the novel was well recieved in Europe! I really felt like I was getting a lecture in philosophy while reading this book. Did you ever ask your friends to clarify parts of the novel that you were unclear about?

I would like to appear very

I would like to appear very sophisticated and say that I loved the philosophical leanings of the book and found this aspect interesting and challenging. I do love to discuss ideas and moral dilemmas. I admire the minds of great thinkers. However, I only found the philosophizing in Hedgehog boring. I wonder if something got lost in the translation - at least for me. Maybe I have no appreciation of the class system in France, and this was lost on me too. I wonder if I lack the brilliance that allows appreciation of what is espoused in this book. While I labored through 2/3 of the book, I was pulled in and captured for the remaining third but this was too little too late. I began to care about the characters and was also saddened when Renee Michel met her demise. You cannot argue with success and I am clearly in the minority. Maybe I need to reread The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but I just don't have it in me.

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