Sunday, April 28, 2013

Biblio Babble: The Best Book I Ever HEARD

The 'Read': The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Writer: Muriel Barbery

The Dealio: Have you ever heard any book described as a 'coming of age book'? And has that ever referred not only to a 12 year old, but also, and even more movingly, about a 54 year old? May I present The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I came to this book through one called The End of Your Life Book Club, a non-fiction work by Will Schwalbe. And, for reasons I can not now recall, I elected to give this a go as an audiobook. REALLY the best decision, where this book is concerned, because the spoken words, in the talented hands (er, voices) of Cassandra Morris and Barbara Rosenblat was a things of such incredible beauty, humor and intensity, that I am not at all sure just the written word would have had the impact on me that listening in definitely did. OBTW, this was made into a movie in 2011. Which I intwend to investigate pronto.
The story is, on the surface, that of two wildly disparate residents of 7 rue de Grenelle, both of whom are harboring secrets. Twelve year old Paloma Josse is a brilliant, precocious, inwardly rebellious girl who is planning to kill herself on her 13th birthday because life seems to have no meaning. The 54 year old Renee Michelle is the concierge at number 7, and proudly covers her sharp, philosophical agile mind (she is a proud 'auto-didact') behind the very conventions of her job: dull, fat, ugly, plump, stereotypical  and uninspired. Through the course of this beguiling tale- interspersed with reams of philosophy, which can tend to pinch and pluck at the story's progress- we come to find out that these two actually have much in common. Much more than they- or anyone else in the building- could ever believe. But it is the arrival of the mysterious M. Ozu which suddenly throws electricity into the mix prompting all sorts of changes and revelations all sorts of revelations. Barbery is such a beautiful writer, with some great elegance of her own in her graceful and sumptuously delicious  turns of phrase. It was such a treat to listen to her moving and amusing plot lines spool out as the miles whipped by while I drove from locale to locale, that I often found myself  idling in the driveway or parking lot just  to 'finish up' a chapter before going inside.

The Grading Session: 4.997 pengies out of 5. It would have been more, but for the lengthy discourses on philosophical schools of thought that tended to slow the story down a bit. However, I was both unwilling and unready to let this story end.  It was exactly that addictive.

Lessons Learned: Um, you can't judge a book by its cover? How about this, then: it is both unfair and silly to assume you know everything about a person based upon their job or their appearance. Also this: there is much joy in the simplest of things:home-made  madeleines, Japanese films, a cat who listens to you pour out your heart and soul, then goes back to ignoring you once the crisis is past. Lastly this: I simply love it when one book nudges me in the direction of another. Or others! True lagniappe!

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