Monday, November 26, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry


I read this book on a whim while waiting for a book I had ordered from Amazon. It took me two to three days total and after I still had a couple days before my order's arrival. Nevertheless I found The Elegance of the Hedgehog to be utterly pleasant.

I was instantly drawn to it (initially) because of the setting: modern-day Paris, France. The novel is written as a double journal of sorts; there being two main protagonists, the difference in this set-up (expectantly typical story-line: two characters start out with problems,and are possibly facing major life events then later, towards the end, they find their answer and it typically happens once the two stories collide) being the protagonists themselves. One is a 12-year old girl intelligent beyond the outside world's expectations and a 50 something-year old concierge whose only friend is a smart maid from South America. the characters in an a-typical fashion are in fact acquainted with one another but they both let things such as class and age differentiation keep them from really seeing the other for who they truly are. The irony being that both are so wrapped up in their unsettling contentment that they only recognize those around them that are cookie cutter semblances of on another, rather than other loner/outsider types. Basically everyone who isn't like them (which is an over-whelming percentage) don't even register on their amusingly repugnant radar.

The concierge, Renée, has lived her entire life equal parts afraid and indifferent yet aware of the dividing line that is class. She plays into everyone's assumptions of a uneducated, uncultured philistine. Although her education is informal, she is a self-taught cultural paragon. Her self-containment and social complacency is also self-learned, a defense mechanism I think. I love this character and I understand her on a level I don't always reach in novels. Sometimes it is easier to cloak yourself in other's presumptions and beliefs than exhaust yourself trying to prove otherwise. And quite frankly most people aren't worth the time and are often undeserving.

Of course that is a very mild, slightly cryptic summary but I would not want to spoil a single thing for those of you who have yet to discover this gem of a book!

*I feel an informal verbal disclosure of some sort is in order. Although I started this blog in order to voice my (and others') opinions on books, literature, etc. some things I say may come off as misleading because of how I say it. I don't need to tell you this because it is common knowledge, but I am going to say it and I am only going to say it once. That's it.

I am not a college graduate, I haven't studied any of the following subjects formally: psychology, literature or basically anything sounding vaguely erudite. I am just a bookseller at a store in (arguably) the Midwest who dropped out of college and pursued hair for a whole 2 1/2 years. (Every year I like to add a few months for good measure.) If I sound like I could psychoanalyze the shit out of your boyfriend, it is only because I have been in and out of therapy since my parents divorced. (They are total frenemies now which should answer some theories as to the origin of my emotional instability in and out of relationships. But who wants to talk about that?!???!!? not me mom not meeee.)

Anyway I feel this little statement will become a good deflection if and when someone makes a comment like: "Dude you're spelling effing sucks. what the f dude?" or "Where can I get information on time travel so I can intercept your parents from conceiving you?" or "wow you sound super smart did you go to like college im having trouble with my boyfriend but i think it stems from my lack of parental guidance since my parents divorced when i was in the third grade and i was like basiclly one of those latchkey kids and now im wasting my talents in a dead end job oh i dont really have a boyfriend why does everyone think im a lesbian help me be my friend lol jk maybe"

No serious though, we should be friends. I like you.
Now I leave you with this completely unrelated yet undeniably hilarious little jammer.