he Elegance of the Hedgehog
By Muriel Barbery; translated by Alison Anderson
This best-selling Cinderella tale from France is an “ingenious work of fiction,” said Barbara Fisher in The Boston Globe. Narrated in alternating chapters by an “amazingly” perceptive 12-year-old girl and the matronly concierge at the girl’s Paris apartment building, it’s propelled mostly by the reader’s hope that these two privately engaging spirits will eventually discover each other. The concierge makes herself invisible by acting the part of a dull-witted grind; the girl is so disgusted by adult falseness that she intends to commit suicide when she turns 13. Meanwhile, both are creating “eloquent little essays on time, beauty, and the meaning of life,” said Caryn James in The New York Times. Not until halfway through does a third figure stir the plot, said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. His presence in the building “leads to developments that range from the comic to the touching to the heartbreaking.” Through it all, The Elegance of the Hedgehog remains an “exceptionally winning” and “very French” novel: tender, mildly satirical, and “most absorbing” when waxing philosophical.
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