Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I just finished reading this, and by just I mean that I still feel the tears in my eyes. Yes, this book made me cry. It's not really an uncommon occurrence for me to cry when reading a book. And yet, this wasn't a fulfilling emotion; it was much more akin to tragedy.

I did initially have a difficult time getting in to the book. I began reading it several months ago, and ended up putting it down and reading something else instead. The satisfaction that I have found from actually finishing this book is almost astounding. It's almost a climatic feeling of relief.

The premise of the story is a concierge in a posh upper-class apartment building in Paris who a closer philosopher. Her life has been spent in the shadow of poverty, because of this she has always hidden the intelligence and human understanding that she has. Through this story she discusses several famous philosophers and writers, but never shows much emotion or connection with the outside world. Through the residents of the apartment building she slowly comes to a full realization of what life is, and that there should be no boundaries between being impoverished and being intelligent. Essentially, that poverty doesn't mean that you have to be stupid.

While reading the story from the point of Madame Michel there are also interludes by a young girl named Paloma. Paloma isn't your average 12 year old girl. She sees the world through adult eyes, but has no power to act in an adult way. She is also a closet philosopher, hiding how intelligent she is so that she doesn't have to deal with her family's expectations. She is a wealthy girl who lives in the building as well.

I'm not going to go into any more details of the actual plot-line, because my intention here is not to ruin the book for you. I believe my intention is to cause anyone reading these to want to read the book as well. So, I will simply tell you how I feel about the context, the writing, and the overall opinion I have of the book.

One of the first things I ask myself after reading a book is, will I read this again? I can honestly say that this is a book that I will very happily read again. It was inspiring in a way that a book hasn't been to me in a very long time. I think the main fault that I find with the book is just the fact that it is very heavy reading. Madame Michel spends most of her time relating what is going on around her with a range of different philosophers. She jumps around between phenomenology and dutch paintings, and is overall very well versed on many different subjects. And yet, if you aren't philosophical in nature you may find these ponderings to be difficult to climb through in order to get to the heart of the story.

I myself am what I'd like to consider "philosophical." Philosophy is actually my current course of study in school. I think this helped me appreciate Madame Michel even more. She also has a love of Leo Tolstoy, I'll admit that Russian literature is not my forte. It makes me feel the need to be more versed in Tolstoy. The passion in this book that was shown for literature was very refreshing. Reading this has simply made me want to read even more.

On that note, it is late and I should be heading to bed. I believe that my book for the next week shall be Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It's another book that I've started and continually put down for some reason or another. Reading about how moving Tolstoy was to this character, makes me feel like I should approach Tolstoy with new energy. We shall see how I do.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a wonderful masterpiece of French literature. I hope that I don't sound like I'm gushing, or that I'm ignoring the fact that there were a few pieces of the structure that I didn't enjoy. I am not here to destroy literature, but to give it a new life. Sometimes you have to look past the small flaws to enjoy the wonderful offering in front of you.

I hope that you will choose to read this book, and that if you have anything you'd like to add please feel free.  Also, I apologize for any random jumping around that I do when I type this. I tend to write the way I speak, and sometimes that isn't very fluently. Again, I hope I may have inspired you to pick up the book and give it a try. I have a copy if anyone I know would be interested in borrowing it.

I'll be blogging you again with my musings of Anna Karenina at the end of the week. Until then I wish you all the best, and happy reading!


No comments:

Post a Comment