Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog and more


Have you read this? It was first published in France in 2006, and published in English in 2008. I checked on the author, Muriel Barbery, on Wikipedia and learned that she has degree in philosophy. That certainly explains the direction of the book!

I found The Elegance of the Hedgehog very philosophical. And lest you are looking for a plot in the book, that is the plot.

I struggled somewhat with the first half of the book. Lots of words, not much else going on.

The story is told by two females, Paloma, a quite intelligent, but lonely 12 year old girl, and the other a 54 year old widow named Renee. Renee is the concierge for the building where Paloma lives. Paloma considers herself highly intelligent, much more than anyone else in her family, despite the fact that her mother has a PhD in literature and her sister is attaining her advanced degree in philosophy. She describes her family as rich. In contrast, Renee considers herself poor, but very intelligent. She works hard at keeping her knowledge of anything a secret from all, but her one friend, Manuela.

Both Renee and Paloma are very lonely. They have spent their lives keeping themselves separate from others, thinking that no one else could understand them. Paloma has plans to set her apartment on fire (when no one is present), then go off and quietly die by taking pills. She has the date planned. It seemed to me that the whole plan was based on teaching her family "something". Both Renee and Paloma think that others don't understand them and in reality, it seemed to me, that it was they who do not understand others. They seemed to have closed themselves off from others an don't give others any chance of getting to know who they really are.

Thankfully, by the middle of the book, a new tenant moves into the building and becomes the binding between Renee and Paloma. Kakuro Ozu has moved to France from Japan and it seems instantly recognizes both Renee and Paloma for who they are.

For me, once Kakuro entered the book, things began to get interesting and, in a sense, more real.

I liked the way the book was laid out, with each chapter told only by either Renee or Paloma. Different font was used for each of them, which helped the reader identify who was narrating. The other interesting thing was that the title of each chapters. Renee's chapters were titled appropriately with whatever thoughts/events that were being discussed. Paloma's chapters were titled as "Profound Thought" going from "Profound Thought #1" to "One Last Profound Thought".

My last Profound Thought? Interesting book.

Another book that I have just devoured is a cookbook called yummy Potatoes. Need I add, that I love potatoes? I would like to say that I am going to do a Julie/Julia and try every recipe, but I know myself and that really is probably doubtful...a nice goal, but I don't want to hold myself to it, then be let down! I will let you know if, in actuality, it really happens! It's a gorgeous book and the recipes sound divine (did I mention that I love potatoes?).

Well, if you read my last post, you will know that I have been wondering about names of book groups. I asked my group last night if the group had a name. It doesn't. And no one seemed interested in naming the group. Which is fine with me, because I kind of feel like, what do you do with a name? Maybe it helps unite groups or something, but I really don't think that the group that I am with needs uniting! I am still curious about other groups names, however. I just think that it is interesting to see what groups have chosen.

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