My Goodreads review:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
maybe that’s what life is about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It’s as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never….Beauty, in this world
This is an edited excerpt from the last page of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, a beautiful and amusing book about two bright and interesting people who have each been hiding from the world, but who are brought together and to an appreciation of themselves and their lives by the intervention of a wise Japanese retiree who enters their lives. The book alternates between the voices of a plain middle-aged concierge of a high-end Paris apartment house and of a twelve year old girl living in the same building. Both are bright, cultured, thoughtful, and cuttingly witty. Neither is fond of most of the others in the building who are self-important and superficial people enjoying their wealth and status without much regard for those around them. Madame Michel, the concierge, hides behind her role, pretending to be what others expect, while secretly delighting in the arts and intellectual pursuits. Paloma, likewise, is hiding–mostly from the intrusions of her family on her attempts to think about life in peace. When a resident of the building dies suddenly, his apartment is sold to Kakuro, a cultured retiree with a twinkle in his eye, who quickly sees through the fronts put up by both protagonists. In accepting his friendship, and one another’s, both open up to new experiences and insights that transform and heal them.