The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a study in the dichotomy of the hidden inner self versus outer perceptions. Paloma and René are each careful to build a facade that hides their true nature from the world. Until a new tenant moves into their building, this plan has worked well — but no longer. What happens when you meet someone who can see who you really are? Littered with dozens of literary, art, and music references, this quiet novel is a treat for lovers of culture. Beautifully written, poignant, and so very bittersweet. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
An enchanting New York Times
and international bestseller 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.
Renée Michel is the 54-year-old concierge of a luxury Paris apartment building. Her exterior ("short, ugly, and plump") and demeanor ("poor, discreet, and insignificant") belie her keen, questing mind and profound erudition. Paloma Josse is a 12-year-old genius who behaves as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter. She plans to kill herself on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday.
Both Renée and Paloma hide their true talents and finest qualities from the bourgeois families around them, until a wealthy Japanese gentleman named Ozu moves into building. Only he sees through them, perceiving the secret that haunts Renée, winning Paloma's trust, and helping the two discover their kindred souls. Moving, funny, tender, and triumphant, Barbery's novel exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
"This audio version of the surprise French bestseller hits the mark as both performance and story. The leisurely pace of the novel, which explores the upstairs-downstairs goings-on of a posh Parisian apartment building, lends itself well to audio, and those who might have been tempted to skip through the novel's more laborious philosophical passages (the author is a professor of philosophy) will savor these ruminations when read aloud. Tony Award winning actress Barbara Rosenblat positively embodies the concierge, Rene Michel, who deliberately hides her radiant intelligence from the upper-crust residents of 7 rue de Grenelle, and the performance of Cassandra Morris as the precocious girl who recognizes Rene as a kindred spirit is nothing short of a revelation. Morris's voice, inflection and timbre all conspire to make the performance entirely believable. A Europa paperback. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Gently satirical, exceptionally winning and inevitably bittersweet."
--The Washington Post Time magazine
"Both [characters] create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renée with erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio."
--New York Times Book Review Publishers Weekly
"The novel wins over its fans with a life-affirming message, a generous portion of heart and Barbery's frequently wicked sense of humor."
--Time Publishers Weekly
"By turns very funny and heartbreaking . . . [Barbery's] simple plot and sudden denouement add up to a great deal more than the sum of their parts."
--Publishers Weekly Providence Journal
". . . a nuanced audio presentation that perfectly captures the unique eloquence, mordant wit and charm of its protagonists."
"This audio version of the surprise French bestseller hits the mark as both performance and story. Barbara Rosenblat positively embodies the concierge, Renée Michel . . . Cassandra Morris as the precocious girl who recognizes Renée as a kindred spirit is nothing short of a revelation."
--Publishers Weekly [Starred Review] Library Journal
"The invaluable Rosenblat, winner of 40 Golden Earphone Awards for superior recordings, invests Renée's part of the story with the warmth and élan that always characterizes Rosenblat's work. And Morris, a twenty-something actress who is able to sound uncannily like a 12-year-old, makes Paloma precocious but not bratty, a worthy partner in her half of the book."
--Providence Journal BookPage
". . . a beautiful love story that quietly takes on classism and the meaning of life in one fell swoop. The readings by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris (Elsewhere
) add life and realism."
--Library Journal Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“Lo and behold, yet another work that is more captivating . . . when read aloud than read off the page.”
An enchanting New York Times and international bestseller 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. A moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
About the Author
MURIEL BARBERY is a French novelist and professor of philosophy. Her second novel L'Élégance du hérisson (translated into English as The Elegance of the Hedgehog) topped the French best-seller lists for 30 consecutive weeks and is an international bestseller.CASSANDRA MORRIS has done voiceover work for Disney, appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, and can be seen in the future film Double Parked.Multiple Audie® Award winner Barbara Rosenblat has been named a "Voice of the Twentieth Century" by AudioFile magazine. The New York Times writes,"Watch Ms. Rosenblat work...and you get the sense that even an Oscar winner might not be able to pull this off." She created the role of "Mrs. Medlock" in the Tony® Award-winning Broadway musical The Secret Garden.