Friday, March 26, 2010

What I'm Reading Now...

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a review by Mary Jane King, Director
Institutional Advancement and Development

Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog is one of the funniest, cleverest but ultimately most touching books I’ve ever read. Translated from the French by Alison Anderson (would that my French were good enough to read this in the original), Hedgehog takes place in an elegant apartment building in Paris where a concierge, Renée, and a 12-year-old from the fifth floor are living oddly parallel lives until a new arrival, Mr. Ozu, shatters normality and brings them together. The concierge—short, plump and ugly—has the brilliant inner life of an autodidact—a life that began on the day her first-grade teacher took her hand, called her by name, and began to teach her to read. The 12-year-old, Paloma, has startling intelligence which she hides behind a mask of mediocrity as she plots to kill herself and burn down the family flat when she turns 13. From sublime philosophical constructs to mundane aspects of life, this book unfolds in layer after gorgeous layer until it reaches a heart-breaking ending.