It’s been 20 minutes since I finished this book. It took me that long to begin reviewing it because it struck a chord inside me, one that rendered me lifeless and contemplative in bed for 15.
Oh yes, it’s that kind of book.
The phrase that best depicted Elegance, which I found tucked in the pages of praise before the title, was “Light yet erudite.” … And goodness, the truth in that statement!
Let’s begin by saying that Elegance is no ordinary novel — the language is deeply profound for a work of fiction written and set in a modern time period. Second, the plot’s beautifully simplistic, the setting never straying from a pompous hotel in France that just might trigger a growth of disdain for Parisian elite in even the kindest reader. Third, the alternating voices in which it’s written are inescapably charming and, at times, painfully honest.
Renee, the 54 year-old concierge, is a sort of philosophical goddess. (Hey, what do you expect from a book written by a French philosopher herself?) The problem is she’s a concierge in Paris, only a speck of dust in the book’s galaxy of rich aristocrats.
So she plays dumb. Renee is shrewd but insecure; her detectors light up at the slightest hint of beauty but burn at the ugliness of humanity.
Paloma, a 12-year old suicidal daughter of a hotel tenant, starts a journal of the “movement of the world” and “profound thoughts” — all neat, twisted little essays both justifying her hunger for suicide and search for something beautiful to eradicate that hunger.
The result is magical.
The story alternates in perspectives of Renee and Paloma, their very genuine chapters ranging from a sentence to 20 pages. Eventually, a Japanese man swoops in, capturing the hearts of anyone that chances to catch a glimpse of that crinkly smile.
It’s so very delicious — if you’re the reader type that gobbles up books with deeper, satisfying, lasting meanings, then Elegance is for you.
I must admit: sometimes, this book is practically a compilation of essays with a loose plot. I must also admit: These essays are incredibly well done. They explain the obvious things and emotions that we all get and dissect them but with outstanding delicacy and, well, elegance.
It made me laugh out loud, cry, blankly stare at the wall, bang my head against the wall, and at the end, collapse into a wave of admiration and respect for Ms. Muriel Barbery. It was by far the most honest book I’ve read, never failing to capture the authenticity and complexity that throbs in human nature.
Do yourselves a favor and pick it up, loves! The Elegance of a Hedgehog wins all my stars :’)
It’s also a movie, what?! I’ve yet to watch it, but if it got an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes imagine how fantastic the book must be! <3
Thank you so much, kindred soul, for reading! I’ll post about my summer adventures later this month. Until then, have a lovely Saturday and recommend some books for me while you’re at it! :’)