The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
Paperback- $7.50

The enthralling international bestseller.

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. ...

Overall rating:

 

How would you rate this book?

Member ratings

 
  "Not my Fav" by barntarfuss (see profile) 03/31/09

Unsavory characters could not hold my attention despite good writing skills.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by pgahome (see profile) 06/23/09

Something different, slyly written with great dialogue and 3 main characters whose lives intersect with joy and heartache

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by kpazzaglia (see profile) 06/24/09

I loved this book! It was thought provoking and brought back many memories of college classes long forgotten and rarely used! The characters were well developed and so interesting. I am going to look for her other books to read.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by the_brik (see profile) 08/17/09

What a complete waste of time. I canniot believe that thie was a New York Times Bestseller. It makes me lose my faith in the American Reader.

This is the worst book I have ever read - hands down. I will do all in my power to keep people from reading it.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by NewMexicoTam (see profile) 10/09/09

I enjoyed all the insights into the characters' thoughts. Very interesting characters. Unpredictable surprise occurred for me. Impressive translation from the French.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by catlady500 (see profile) 10/12/09

Book went too long without a story line or emotional compass.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Facilitator" by barbra (see profile) 11/02/09

Not an easy read. I had to keep going back to refresh what I had previously read. So far have not finished the book. I rarely put a book down without reaching the end. Will try again.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Chapterscam (see profile) 11/13/09

slow start, grows on you. Told from 2 views: renee, the super-literate small hotel concierge, hiding her gifts from the hotel residents; Paloma, 12-yr-old insightful dtr of wealthy parents, living in the hotel, trying to find meaning in life.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Maruta (see profile) 12/03/09

An intellectually challenging and brilliantly written story giving insight into the lives of individuals living in a wealthy apartment in Paris. The author gives the reader a window into the heart and soul of individuals and the fears and doubts and other emotions that have a grip on their lives.

 
  "Ugh, Don't Bother" by Hosozawa (see profile) 12/11/09

This was not a hit in our group!! Just awful. How this became a bestseller is beyond comprehension.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by suebz (see profile) 01/06/10

This book was not necessarily an easy read because of the emphasis on philosophy but I found it very insightful. This is a character driven book and lacks plot movement. Many in our book club didn't like it for that reason but I found it quietly inspiring. The characters were well-drawn and unforgettable!

 
  "Elegance of the Hedgehog" by aperrigo (see profile) 01/06/10

The consensus of the group was--there is no consensus! Several LOVED it; a couple read it but didn't like it, and several just hated it so much they couldn't read it! The format probably was offputting for some; others thought there was just too much philosophy.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by barbarastoll (see profile) 01/16/10

I loved the beauty of the language in this book. I was amazed to find it was translated from the french. It suffered nothing in the translation. Moving relationships, deep characters, a must read.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by tpage67 (see profile) 02/23/10

The book is pretentious and uses a pseudo-intellectual approach that I found extremely annoying. The plot, if there is one, seems to wander from character to character in a meaningless and pointless fashion. In addition the author uses phrasing that is stilted and awkward. What a colossal waste of time.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by AZannie (see profile) 03/15/10

Listen to the audio book for a real treat. The readers are superb, adding to the book's fun. Plus, the French terms and phrases drip poetically from their tongues.

 
  "The elegance of the hedgehog" by katjakrull (see profile) 03/19/10

 
  "Just Wasn't a fun Read" by pleblanc (see profile) 03/30/10

Very philosophical and introspective. If you like cynical Gallic self-absorption this is the book for you. Didn't like the characters very much and just when I thought I might begin to, alas, it was too late.

 
  "Hedgehog" by bbmd2 (see profile) 04/01/10

 
  "Not for everyone" by lrgarci (see profile) 04/12/10

Took about 150 pages to get into the book. Seemed extremely pointless in the beginning and didn't get much better. Needed to have a dictionary and have read Anna Karenina to really understand this book. There are some gems waiting to be harvested but you have to dig deep and want to. I'm not sure many will want to.

 
  "Difficult, but interesting read" by bschrader (see profile) 04/13/10

The numerous literary and philosophical references usually went over our heads, but we found the book very interesting. We enjoyed an excellent discussion about the class system in Europe and the US.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by jkwolfe5 (see profile) 04/14/10

The first 150 or so pages of this book were difficult to read, however if you have read Anna Karenina, are familiar with Tolstoy, and have some knowledge of philosophers such as Emmanuel Kant, you will enjoy this book. That said, while I enjoyed this book, it is not a book all will enjoy. Also, be prepared to have a college dictionary at your side.

 
  "Elegance of the Hedgehog" by JennyLynn (see profile) 04/14/10

If you majored in Philosophy then I recommend this book. For those folks who didn't major in philosophy it's pretentious with an unnecessary number of references to various philosophies. The last 45 pages are good, but not worth the first 300.

 
  "Hedgehogs?" by DebraF (see profile) 04/20/10

So far (April) my best book of 2010. Laughed out loud many times and thoroughly enjoyed. French characters and attitudes were spot on. Loved the interplay between Renee, Paloma and the Japanese guy. Looking forward to discussing.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by teresasatue (see profile) 04/21/10

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by teddygrayking (see profile) 04/21/10

 
  "The Elegence of the Hedgehog" by AnnieO1822 (see profile) 05/12/10

Character driven, lacks plot movement

 
  "do not read" by Asullivan3323 (see profile) 05/24/10

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by sesanders (see profile) 05/26/10

Well done! Although Renee's philosophical passages are very intense, I believe they are necessary to illustrate the depth of her intellect. Loved Paloma and loved the transition both of these characters experience.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Have a Very Open Mind" by Sonyab (see profile) 06/02/10

In my opinion the characters were very hard to like. The two main characters were very bitter, arrogant, and self-centered. At times I wondered if the characters were so very condescending because that was they way the author wanted them to appear or if it was because the author's own attitude and personality were slipping through. I'm sure there were some very insightful thoughts and ideas presented in the story but I just couldn't move beyond the irritating attitudes of the characters. I found that their negativity was contagious while I was reading. I'm sure that my little feeble mind missed the profound message being conveyed. I still recommend this book for other book clubs. It definitely provides the opportunity for lots of discussion. I personally couldn't wait to hear the different perspectives and thoughts on the characters and the story in general.

 
  "Beautifully written!" by geeknee (see profile) 07/25/10

I loved the development of the characters and the incredibly well-written prose of the author. The book was wonderful to read. I found the character compelling, each in her own world, with her own demons and passions. Imagine, the intense social pressure Renee feels, even as child that compels her to hide her incredible intellect from those around her! And her counterpart in the apartment, a young girl who feels so out of sync with the world and those around her due to her precocious intellect that she feels the best solution is to commit suicide. I couldn't put this one down!

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Neyly (see profile) 08/23/10

I liked the book, particularly the author's dry sense of humor. However, I can not heartily recommend the book. Many members in the book club, including myself, complained about the vocabulary and the need to have a dictionary on hand while reading. Other members decided to skip the many flights into philosophy taken by the author, a philosophy professor. Other complaints stemmed from the abrupt and disappointing end to the book. Overall, probably not the best choice for a book club to read.

 
  "Both voices are beautiful" by Infogal (see profile) 08/25/10

This book is serious and fun at the same time. It is full of literary, artistic and, of course, Japanese references... along with having a really great story. The use of alternating voices and the parallel personalities of the two narrators is absolutely charming.

If you find the first few chapter difficult, please persist. It is definitely worth it. Or try it as an audiobook. They have done a wonderful job with the audio version. I can't wait for the movie now.

 
  "Really?!" by SharonBrower (see profile) 09/01/10

A 13 yr old who wants to commit suicide?! I couldn't finish it and that's rare!

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by markacz (see profile) 09/16/10

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by cskoniec (see profile) 09/17/10

The book was eloquently written. I personally did not care for the story itself and I really didn't like the ending, however, it was an experience to read. A great book for a club discussion on the complexities of society and the inner selves of the characters in the story.

 
  "Pretentious navel gazing" by tsheldon (see profile) 09/19/10

No plot, with a heavy dollop of pretentiousness. This book has a touch of the emperor's new clothes about it. You feel you ought to enjoy and should extol how deep and meaningful it was...if only you cared!

 
  "Elegance of the Hedgehog" by tsuski (see profile) 09/24/10

A story told through the musings of two female characters on philosophical subjects like life and beauty and happiness.

 
  "the Elegance of the Hedgehog" by cathare (see profile) 10/12/10

Despite the difficulty of the style, members of my book group found this book beautiful, interesting and even insightful. It is the story of two individuals who leave in a very bourgeois building in the very high end left bank of Paris (7th arrondissement.
Renee, the concierge is in fact an autodidact who hides this side of her as she plays her role of the concierge as it is expected of her. This who she is in the eyes of the rich bourgeois families who leave in the building. That is her existence.
Paloma is the 12 years old daughter of one of a rich family who leaves in the building. She is very bright and also tries very hard not to show this side of her to her family and in school. She wants to commit suicide on her 13th birthday because she doesn't want to end up like her parents who appear to her to be trapped in a fish bowl. Her existence is not worth leaving if she ends up like her parents who's existence she finds very shallow.
But everything will changed when a rich Japanese business man, Kakuro Ozu moves in the building and who, despite the appearances and social barriers, becomes friend with both Renee and Paloma.
Through their appreciation of Art and the definition of Beauty, these characters share with us their emotions, the catalytic element that bring those individuals together.
Yet, this book has more to offer. It is not just about existentialism and the absurdity of life. It is a satire about the "emptiness" and "pretentious" life of the middle class and the educated elite, it is also funny and mouving. It is mainly about the meaning of life and death.
French national and resident in US, I first read the book in english but re-reead it in its original version to see if all the subtilities of the vocabulary were not lost in translation. I did not see a lot of difference in substance. However because of my upbringing in France, I may have feel more connected with the book.
Some of my American friends complained about the difficulty of the vocabulary. Others, who listened to the audio version, did not complain about it, thought it was an amazing book and find the voices of the actors well chosen.
A movie was made of this book but our book group thinks that the book should become a play, because it reads and listens to like a play.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by AnnaLynch (see profile) 11/09/10

This book is a real gem. It has philosophy, wisdom, and humor all included in a wonderful story exploring beauty and what it means to be human. A tall order! Beautifully written.

 
  "Potentially depressing but an interesting theme...." by Patimo (see profile) 11/15/10

I enjoyed this book but my fellow bookclub members were mixed in their review. "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" has a decidedly "European Feel" as it takes place in an upscale residential building in a Paris neighborhood. Renee, the buildings concierge, a woman who has clearly given up on life's social joys as well as her appearance (calling herself "a Hedgehog")lives the secret life of a connoisseur of Japanese art and fine music and writing yet portrays the expected role of a concierge in a posh apartment building. We follow the unlikely friendship of Renee and a resident of the building, little Paloma, a brilliant,depressed and suicidal 13 year old girl who lives on the fifth floor. A spiritual connection develops as both of them fight to conceal their most beautiful attributes while sharing their mutual love for intellectual and artistic joy. The story winds up in a most unusual twist, leaving a reader thinking about the characters long after the book is finished.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by sonyalmoore (see profile) 01/21/11

Our book club loved this selection. Some of the ladies found the passages on philosophy a little difficult to get through, but all emphasized that everything else was perfect! What we discussed the most was how 2 extremely reclisive & private people are brought together by another generous soul who recognized their worth. Beautiful writing with passages you will linger over.

 
  "Our Bookclub really liked this" by watsonjl (see profile) 01/26/11

Many words we had to look up, but in general, everyone in the group enjoyed this book - and found the characters engaging.

Some mentioned that it took 1/3 of the book to get into it - but it was worth pursuing and finishing.

 
  "A Beautiful - and Elegant Book" by mmhubbell (see profile) 02/18/11

I must say I am surprised at the many negative reviews of this book. I felt it was a beautiful and moving story of womanhood - from an older and a younger perspective - and what expectations society puts on them. How those who are "different" - intelligent, thoughtful, culturally oriented, soul searching, insightful - may feel they have to hide in the shell of a false role, or a facade that gives them an invisibility to society, within which they are free to be themselves. The impact of loneliness and isolation are a side effect which one must choose to deal with, or not. This is not purely a women's issue, but certainly throughout time women have been more likely to conceal their true self within a socially acceptable role, with varying degrees of success and acceptance.

 
  "Brillant Vocabulary" by erpennin (see profile) 02/21/11

OUr club enjoyed this book. We all enjoyed the author's brillant use of words. A very moving story.

 
  "sad ending" by Abby0814 (see profile) 03/13/11

 
  "Words That Wrap Around the Reader" by merrybee (see profile) 03/14/11

If you love words and the images they create, you will love this book. It inspired me to seek out other works that challenge me with images and thoughts beyond the every day.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by cgreisinger (see profile) 04/01/11

I LOVED this book, and TRIED to read it w/ BOTH my book clubs. However, I think some members were intimidated by the intro chapters, and we never discussed it w/ either one! It took me a little while to figure out where the author was leading, but it was so WORTHWHILE. It inspired me enough to listen to the music mentioned in it, rent the movies the characters watched....How many books make you want to do that? Alas, I am out of book clubs, but would LOVE to find someone willing to discuss it! There are SO many great topics layered into the storyline.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by onawaradkes (see profile) 04/08/11

While I did enjoy the book I really wasn't too sure the first 50 pages or so. Stick with it, it is worth it. Most of our book club loved the book, although some had trouble with the vocabulary. It was a good book for a deeper discussion.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by cjhennings (see profile) 08/11/11

Philosophy

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by breeze (see profile) 08/11/11


It was difficult to get into and to follow. Many unfamiliar words even for an English Major, which I am not. Felt the
characters were demeaning to the person with an average intelligence level. Did not like it and only read the first 60
pages and the last chapter.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Sherrit (see profile) 08/11/11

this is a book that makes you think as there are many philosophical instances that occur between the characters.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Booklady98 (see profile) 12/03/11

I enjoyed the way the story was presented, first-person from the point of view of the older middle-aged French concierge and her twelve year old soul mate, the daughter of one of the rich tenets. An interesting story about intelligence and what how one can use it, or not use it, or hide it from the rest of the world.

 
  "Philosophy" by laurams2 (see profile) 01/05/12

I love reading books that make me think about awareness and identity. This book explores those topics from the points of view of two characters who have great depth.

If you just want a good story though, this book is not for you. One of my book club members didn't like or finish the book because of that. It also takes awhile to "get into it".

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by kathrynda (see profile) 04/11/12

Sometimes challenging, but worth it.

 
  "The Elegence of the Hedgehog" by catmom (see profile) 05/21/12

It took me a couple of chapters to get used to the style, but then I greatly enjoyed the book. There were some funny episodes and lots of thought and ideas from the 2 main characters that gave lots to think about and discuss.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by tleffler (see profile) 10/15/12

 
  "Not my cup of tea, but good for book clubs" by barblibrarian (see profile) 01/28/13

Although I did not care for the Elegance of the Hedgehog, I believe it offers great opportunity for discussion. I found the characters to be very difficult to like, and the discussions of philosophy to be just a bit too much for my taste. Others in my books club liked the book, but said they skipped over the philosophy discussions!

 
  "Lost on Me" by janebr (see profile) 12/02/13

 
  "Elegance, indeed" by MissLorieO (see profile) 02/21/14

 
  "" by Mickay (see profile) 05/06/14

 
  "" by andread1953 (see profile) 05/06/14

 
  "Philisophical " by ThePageTurners (see profile) 11/21/14

The scoring for this title from our group landed at 2 1/2 stars.
This is a very unique novel. If you are interested in philosophy this is the book for you. If you love words the vocabulary is expansive. The group did NOT love this book but, sometimes those are the books that generate the most interesting discussions.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by hans22 (see profile) 02/03/15

This book could not keep my attention until the last third of the book. It then became enjoyable but was a struggle to read the first part.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by nwbonbon (see profile) 02/03/15

The questions furnished by Book Movement generated a good discussion in spite of our not liking the book very much.

 
  "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by GailM (see profile) 02/03/15

If this book hadn\'t been a book club read, I probably would not have finished it. It seemed pedantic, a college prof. showing off his/her knowledge and his wide reading to his class. There were ideas that were interesting: movement of the earth (on many levels), the satisfaction and beauty that come with rituals, how we see others and they see us. I especially liked the description of the sliding doors and the movement of the Japanese women who entered through them. I was disappointed with the ending, and yet it made me think of the camellias, a life of beauty, giving joy to others, but very short lived themselves. The discussion questions that were provided from the Book Movement page were very good guides to reading and discussion this book.

 
  "The Elegance of a Hedgehog" by LynnHix (see profile) 02/04/15

The bokk was very hard to get into, by page 90 I was ready to give up. Even when I plowed on I wasn\'t enjoying the reading. I guess you need to know more about the French to understand the gist.

 
  "" by kakjwkbdk (see profile) 02/12/15

i felt this book was overwrought, I found it to be a tedious read

 
  "" by Nottheboss (see profile) 03/10/15

 
  "" by Kim.Lemke (see profile) 03/17/15

 
  "Surprising gem!" by debbie1962 (see profile) 03/18/15

Please don\'t get bogged down by the philosophical mumbo jumbo! If you can get past the parts where the author spends too much time with the philosophers, the meat of this story is excellent! Moving, insightful and inspiring. A very good read indeed!

 
  "" by CathUnit (see profile) 04/08/15

 
  "" by Karenbrowntx (see profile) 07/24/15

 
  "The Elegance Of The Hedgehog" by its.mama (see profile) 08/02/15

There were so many different responses from our various members that it's hard to qualify this book as a great success or a dismal failure. "Unique, Fascinating progression of characters, Thought-Provoking, Self-indulgent, Incomprehensible, Unrealistic characters, Flashes of brilliance, Beautifully expressed philosophies." Be ready for a mixed discussion!

 
  "" by rhcart (see profile) 01/31/16

 
  "" by Abaker12416 (see profile) 05/24/16

 
  "confusing" by hzimmy (see profile) 07/14/16

This book switched between different characters' narratives and was a little confusing. There was a lot of philosophical and literary references that I glossed over. I concentrated on the dialogue and personal interactions. I finished the book but was not impressed.

 
  "" by elm7597 (see profile) 05/10/17

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/11/17

Pretentious and extremely drawn out in many chapters. Wordy to a fault. It picks up about half way through, and does finish strong, but forcing myself to not put it down up to that point was a chore. I am glad to have finished it, though.

 
  "" by Ljwagoner (see profile) 10/22/17

4.75??. I have had this book on my self for several years & finally picked it up to read a week ago. This book reached down to the core of my being & left me off kilter. This story centers on a middle age woman of middle class, & a 12 year old girl from a wealthy, important family that are both hiding their true selves, their brilliance. The story finds both searching for meaning & hope. A wealthy widower moves into their apartment & the barriers begin to melt away. The writing is smart, witty and poignant. So glad I’ve finally read this work of art.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/27/17

 
  "" by pinkskwerl (see profile) 12/31/17

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/18/18

MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...