Should I or Shouldn’t I Recommend THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG?

Dear Reader,

I’m stumped by how to review Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. For the most part, I found it boring, but my sister-n-law recommended it, so I forced myself to read the whole thing. Nothing much happens besides a middle-aged well read concierge and a bright twelve-year-old girl’s toughts while they narrate their own chapters. (Some reviewers said the narrators were pretentious. Which is what people who don’t understand people like these two would naturally say.)  I often thought what they said could have been condensed; but, at the same time, they seemed to be journal entries, which are prone to long windedness and frequent sections of little point. It’s clear the novel wasn’t plot driven; but then it wasn’t so much character driven either.

For the lesser part–or is it the greater?–Barbery wrote several things that I just had to record so I could savor them later. For example:

  • “Art is life, playing to other rhythms.”
  • “As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone.”
  • “… the capacity to do harm is often and item of family capital.”
  • “Apparently, now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is. They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go. The most intelligent among them turn their malaise into a religion…” 

But do a few memorable lines negate a lot of unmemorable ones? Or the other way around? I don’t know. Do I have to give this book a grade, a # of stars?

What do you think?




2 Responses to “Should I or Shouldn’t I Recommend THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG?”

  1. 1 Beth 07/12/2011 at 1:28 pm

    I read the Elegance of the Hedgehog last year with a class on aesthetics. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, probably due to the discussions we had around it.

    In recommending it to friends and family, I have to preface that it was written by a philosopher, so its more heady than action oriented.

    For recommendation/review, it comes down to who you are suggesting the book to. Someone like me would love it for its discussions of movement, philosophy, and so forth, where others would find it pretentious and boring. Can you get something out of it? Yes. Do you think others will be able to? I think that should drive your recommendation.

  2. 2 Faye Quam Heimerl 09/13/2011 at 5:44 am

    Of course! I should have found out the author was a philosopher. That explains a lot.

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