Friday, December 31, 2010

Book thirty-seven: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I started this year with a new idea: Keep a book journal.  And rather than writing it in an old fashioned book, I decided to keep my book journal online.  It's been a great way to enjoy reading even more.  Just this morning, I finished the last book of 2010, Murial Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog. 

And what a great way to end the year.  Here's a book that introduces the reader to a pair of great characters. The first, a 50-something French concierge (Renee) working in a Paris condominium inhabited by upper-class families.  The second, a precocious 12-year-old girl (Paloma) who is the daughter of one of the upper-class families.  Both are characters who don't live up to their cultural expectations.  Both their lives are changed forever by the appearance of a wise, Japanese gentleman (Kakuro).

Let me start by saying there are a whole bunch of literary, philosophical, musical, and cultural references that went right over my head.  You really need to know your Russian literature and your Japanese Art films to get the most out of this book.  But even though I didn't have all the background info I may have needed, it didn't make the book any less enjoyable.  In fact, it may have made the characters all the more loveable.

If you're looking for a funny (I laughed out loud several times), emotional, charming, and slightly tragic story this is the perfect book.  I won't say much more than that because I'd hate to give away any of the surprises.  I will say that this book, written in first person from the perspective of the two key characters, does something that I never imagined a first person story could accomplish without being totally stupid.  That's a testament to Muriel Barbery's beautiful writing.

Now, I guess I just have to decide what will be my first book in 2011.

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