This unusually named book – The Elegance of the Hedgehog (by Muriel Barbery) – sparks such a sense of curiosity in me. But what a book!
Set in modern France, this translation is the story of an equally unusual concierge, Renēe, who, exhibits a facade of a short, fat and grumpy concierge in a grand Parisian apartment building. But this is no ordinary concierge – Renēe has a secret and is living a lie. Under her prickly surface, Renēe is cultured, educated, well-read and extremely knowledgeable – more so than the rich and professional residents who live in the building – the same people who find her invisible, due to class distinctions.
At the door stands a courier, chewing what must be a piece of gum for elephants, given the vigour and range of mandibular activity to which he is compelled
As it happens, two other unusual people live in the same building, and as these 3 somewhat eccentric individuals begin to build a relationship across the class divide, the ‘Hedgehog’ (Renee) begins to be unveiled and revealed.
This book is not one to read if you are in a hurry. And it’s not always light reading. It is, however, charming, at times hilarious, and also moving, with a level of insight and depth that is more meaty than your average novel.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a novel with teeth.