The Elegance of the Hedgehog

January 19th, 2012

Read: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Summary: Set in a bourgeois suburb of Paris, one older woman and one young girl recount their stories living in an upscale apartment building.  The older woman, Renée, is a self-taught, intelligent concierge.  On the other hand, the young girl, Paloma, lives with her rich family and is very smart for her age.  Both women try to hide behind a façade so as not to reveal how smart they really are.  The reasons that each woman is hiding their intelligence are very different.  Renée feels she cannot ever reveal her true interests due to working as a concierge and is considered lower, working class whereas Paloma feel she would be put into special education that would further challenge and enhance her abilities.  Since Paloma and Renée live in the same building, Paloma soon confirms her suspicions about Renée’s interests and develops a special bond with Renée.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

My Thoughts: I thought this book was an average read. I liked that the characters, Renée and Paloma, shared a common trait in hiding their true intelligence. Both perspectives were different enough to provide two varying stories and views of living in an upper class residence. The different aspects provided were interesting and Paloma’s suspicion of Renée’s intelligence was a nice touch and twist in the book. I would have liked to have seen more development of Paloma and Renée’s relationship with each other, as well as that with the older Japanese gentleman who was central to their introduction. The downside of the book for me was the philosophical ideas presented. It was interesting that the viewpoints of these women and their commentary on life was discussed, but I thought it was too detached from reality. The book presented a lot of new words for me and I did have to research some of the philosophers mentioned.

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