Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Elegance of the Hedgehog ~ book review

The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Oh my.  Where to start?   I can't stand this book.  The more I think about it, the more I dislike it.

Renée, a concierge in a ritzy Parisian apartment building is incredibly intelligent, but hides it from the rest of the world, terrified of being found out.  Paloma, a 12 year old resident of the building in which Renée is the concierge, is also incredibly intelligent and afraid of being found out.  She's also so fed up with her world of meaningless riches that she decides to set fire to her parents' apartment and then kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills on her 13th birthday.

I had zero interest in reading this book, but my book club selected it as their first read, so I went along with it.  I even spent money on this thing.

OK back to the book.  Of course Renée gets found out, Paloma reveals her intelligence to Renée and they find in each other a kindred spirit.  Along the way, though, the reader (at least this one was) is made to feel as though he/she isn't smart enough to be reading the book.  Forgive me if I don't know what Phenomenology is.  Forgive me if I don't give a crap if I don't ever know what Phenomenology is.  I've read Tolstoy and I don't believe that I'm better than the average person for doing so.  Both subjects take play somewhat important roles in the book, as Renée displays how intelligent she is through them, but seriously, how many people have read Anna Karenina?  It's not that uncommon to have read it, is it?

A member of my book club says that she cried when she read the ending.  I'm not going to reveal the ending for anybody who is willing to submit themselves to the torture that is this book, but I'll just say that my response to the ending was "oh".  Then I shut the book for the very last time and I'm about to donate it to my local library because I can tell you right now that I am never reading this thing again.
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  1. Now I'm nervous.. I needed a new book to bring on my vacation and this was suggested to me so I just bought it! I am curious now though to read the ending..

  2. Wow finally someone that felt the way I did! Renee is highly dis-likable! I didn't have to read the book so I think I abandoned it around chapter 3! But I heard so many people saying it was a great book...

  3. Thanks for saving me from this book. I now give myself permission not to finish books if I really don't like them.

  4. Aw, I'm sad you didn't like it! It definitely took a while for me to get into but it's one of my top 5 books ever. Then again, I've tried to read the Life of Pi 3 times and can't get past page 32. To each his own!

  5. @ Liana...I hate Life of Pi as well. I finished that one, said "oh" (just like for Hedgehog) and then I didn't pick up another book for 5 months! It killed the fun of reading for me.

  6. I actually studied phenomenology extensively in grad school. My dissertation is on existential phenomenology. I still disliked this book. (Actually I disliked it in part because of some of the philosophical references, but in any case I didn't finish it). The annoying arrogance of the author seeps from the pages.

    Did you know there's a film version now? It's just titled "The Hedgehog." Maybe we should go see it? ;)



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