Book Review: “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”

hedgehog-erinaceus-europaeus-tiny{Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book yet. Save this post for another time so you can share your thoughts with me.}

I read it. Twice. I read it all the way through really fast like I do and then I read it again to allow the flavor of certain phrases and thoughts to mellow and grow.

I loved it. I hated it.

The ending didn’t change the second time I read it, and for that I am really, really upset! The last scene is forever indelibly etched in my brain.

I was rooting for both of the major characters. I wanted Paloma to find her power as an intelligent and witty young girl and want to live, and I urged Renee to realize how brilliant she was and how she deserved love, and that even in our fifties, we can feel special.

What I didn’t expect was the end. I never saw it coming, just like Renee never saw the drycleaner’s van before it hit her. And that’s it. No hospital, no recovery, no happy conclusion with all the loose ends tied up in a pretty pink polka dot bow. I like my stories delivered to me with happily ever afters. I don’t like to fall in love with a character who feels like a real person and then have her torn away from me!

Paloma contemplated suicide, but will blossom like the camellias Renee grew. Renee died the moment she found a reason to live.

It was released as a film, “The Hedgehog” in 2011. It’s on Netflix and I’ll watch it tomorrow, ‘cos tonight’s “Downton Abbey“. It’s not like I don’t know how it ENDS!

FINAL THOUGHTS: I loved it. I hated it. It was totally worth reading. Twice.
What did YOU think?

Parts of the following synopsis is partly from The New York Times By CARYN JAMES and is partly by me.

By Muriel Barbery and translated by Alison Anderson, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” was a best seller in France and several other countries. The novel’s two narrators alternate chapters, but the book is dominated by Renée, a widowed concierge in her 50s who calls herself “short, ugly and plump,” a self-consciously stereotypical working-class nobody. She is also an autodidact — “a permanent traitor to my archetype,” as she drolly puts it — who takes refuge in aesthetics and ideas but thinks life will be easier if she never lets her knowledge show.

Her unlikely counterpart is Paloma, a precocious 12-year-old whose family lives in the fashionable building Renée cares for. Paloma believes the world is so meaningless that she plans to commit suicide when she turns 13.

Renée’s story is addressed to no one, while Paloma’s takes the form of a notebook crammed with what she labels “profound thoughts.” Both create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renée with erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio.

Both skewer the class-conscious people in the building: Paloma observes the inanity of her parents and her sister while Renée knows that such supposedly bright lights never see past the net shopping bag she carries, its epicurean food hidden beneath turnips. Both appreciate beauty. What Renée calls “a suspension of time that is the sign of a great illumination,” Paloma experiences while watching a rosebud fall.

The sharp-eyed Paloma guesses that Renée has “the same simple refinement as the hedgehog,” quills on the outside but “fiercely solitary — and terribly elegant” within.  The lives of both characters perk up when the rich, mysterious, charmingly attentive Mr. Ozu moves into the building. Not only does he completely renovate his apartment, he does virtually the same to Renee, bringing her new clothes, a new friendship, and a raison d’etre.

A normal life…for now

It’s been a real treat having my tugboat captain home! He’s been here almost a month and we’re settling into our familiar routines. I know that any minute his cell’s gonna ring and he’ll be flying off to another assignment, but for now, I’m really enjoying the normal-ness of having him around.

Right before he gets here, I go through all the stress of getting me and the house ready, baking his favorites, and all that welcome home stuff.

When he arrives, there’s always an adjustment period–at least for me–retraining myself to keep the bathroom door closed, dealing with his mounds of laundry, and learning to share the bed. The grocery bill goes up about a thousand percent–it seems like he thinks he needs to eat EVERY SINGLE DAY-what’s up with that?

We like to read together, either in front of the fire or before going to sleep. I think that’s probably some of the most special and restoring times of all. It’s such a pleasure to read a few pages, look up, quietly make eye contact and smile, and resume reading.

When my son and DIL are here, and it’s quiet except for the turning of pages and perhaps a chuckle or two, I look around the family room and see all of the heads bowed over books–it’s some of my happiest family times.

The book hubs is currently reading is The Way Out by Craig Childs. He previously read The True Story of Water, a gift from my son. Craig Childs is a naturalist, adventurer, and desert ecologist. In this intensely dramatic narrative–the record of a perilous excursion into the wild–two men confront immutable forces of nature and the limits of their own sanity. Childs is lost. In a labyrinth of canyons in the American Southwest where virtually nothing else is alive– barely any vegetation, few signs of wildlife, scant traces of any human precursors in this landscape–Childs and his friend undertake a journey. With as much food and gear as they can carry, and little else but their wiles to help them traverse the inhospitable, unmappable terrain, the two men assume the life-or-death challenge of exploring this land–and then finding a way out. Equally gripping as their adventure in the wild is the parallel story, told in flashback, of what propelled the two men into these extreme circumstances.

I’m reading an exquisite novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, a bestseller in France. I’ve only just started it, and I’m still at the stage of being introduced to the characters so I don’t really have a grasp about what’s going on, but I’m getting pulled into the story, and that’s always a good thing. Has anyone else read this? It’s been out for a few years.

Finishing up the tugboat man’s interview–thank you for your questions–and a post about  grumpy old men.

Daily Prompt: Audience of One

Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

Dear Mommy,

Your little Princess Rosebud is very very mad at you. You are not here anymore and for that reason I understand that you can’t defend your actions, but I’m still super duper mad at you anyway!

Here’s why:

1. How could you be so stupid as to travel all the way to France, actually enter the original Chanel Store on Rue Cambon, and only buy a scarf. A pretty scarf to be sure, but just a SCARF, a worthless square of fabric!! What good does that do me? You went to France in the seventies; if only you had been a better mother, you would have known that your only daughter would one day be obsessed with Chanel. A good mommy–a better mommy than you were–would have known that and would have made sure I had all my wishes fulfilled. At this point, it would be a VINTAGE bag. I HATE YOU! [Cue sound of door slamming– just like the good old days.]

2. And another thing, how dare you die before your grandson got his Ph.D. HOW DARE YOU! That was incredibly selfish of you. You know how much he loved you and how he called both of us “Mom” and both of us would answer, “Which one do you want, honey?” I’m the one that had to buy him an Hermes tie and write a note to him telling him that if you were still alive, this is what you would want him to have because you are so proud of him and what he had accomplished. [Again with the I hate you and door slam sound effect].

3. You would totes love the captain. He would totes love you too, but he’s only heard stories about how wonderful you were. He had kind of a crappy mom and you would have filled that hole in his heart.

How could you die and leave us all alone??

Love,
Your daughter, Princess Rosebud

 

Winner, winner, winner! Liebster Award

One of my new besties, a very lovely lady who writes Tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily, nominated me for the prestigious Liebster Award. This is a wonderful and unexpected honor, albeit a teensy bit sad, because it’s meant to draw attention to deserving blogs (the happy part) who have less than 200 readers (the sad face part). However, I will carry on with a smile as the glass half full kinda gal I am, and proceed with the rules.

Rules
I need to nominate 11 other under-appreciated blogs with less than 200 followers. Hey guys, I appreciate you! Please visit them and give them some love because they are very interesting to read and are authored by brilliant and creative writers. Some have a bit more than 200 but I really enjoy them so much I wanted to help others make the discovery, and I think I actually have chosen 12, but whatever, I never like to follow rules.  And since most of the time I believe the world revolves around me (well, it does around MY house!) and it’s all about me, I can mess with the rules just a bit. Next comes 11 juicy tidbits about myself, then answer 11 questions sent to me, and create 11 questions for my chosen group.

Eleven random facts about ME you really want to know!

1. My grandfather was a rabbi

2. I was in the movie “Stuntman”

3. I fell down a manhole when I was three-years-0ld

4. I once interviewed Bob Hope

5. I know someone who knows someone who went to the Skyfall premiere

6. I love animals more than 90% of all the humans on Earth

7. I’m from the midwest

8. I could probably have a big win on Jeopardy-my head is full of useless information

9. I’ve taught school

10. My husband says I use a shovel like a man (he meant it as a compliment; I was not amused)

11. I haven’t eaten meat since I was 16-years-old

I nominate:

The Fur Files 

Snipewife 

Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches 

Michelle at Play

Life on Wry

Red Dirt Kelly

Jewels for All

Better Half Weddings

Seashells by Millhill

Misifusa’s Blog

Midlife Crisis Crossover

Elyses’s Life as I Know It

These are the questions that I had to answer:

Where is the farthest you have even been from where you were born? Not sure which is further from Detroit; Germany or Greece, but I’ve been to both

Do you live now where your family lived? My mom and dad and I moved from the mid west to San Diego, and my brother lives in on the west coast but not nearby; don’t keep in touch very much with the rest of the family

Do you like to live in the city or the country? I like where I live now, near the beach with a bit of hills, and the city about 30 minutes away. I want a little bit of everything!

Do you prefer to visit the city or the country? Definitely the country– to go hiking, camping, skiing. The city is only good for shopping

In what ways do you consider yourself the most creative?(Name as many ways as you’d like.)

I think I’m a pretty creative gluer of seashells and I try to put words together like I arrange my shells and rocks and beach glass

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? I would like to build my copy editing/proofing business and maybe have the two books I’m currently working on done and published as well as the reality show I want to pitch to ANYONE and you’ll be seeing me on all the talk shows looking very fashionista

What would you like to try that you have not done before? Ski without being petrified of going too fast and falling.

Is there any place in particular that you have never seen that you would like to visit? France

What would you change about the world if you had one quick wish? No animal or child abuse

Rank these(1,2,3,4):books, music, sports, movies You did it for me, I would keep them arranged exactly the same!

What are your 3 favorite holidays? (Whatever you celebrate) My son’s birthday, Christmas, Hannukah, wedding anniversary (I chose 4)

Here are my questions for you: 

1. How old were you when you first learned to read?

2. Name two of your favorite books.

3. What’s your favorite holiday dessert?

4. What is a Merchant Marine?

5. Who is your role model?

6. Who is your favorite movie star?

7. Do you make new year’s resolutions?

8. What’s cluttering up your life?

9. Do you drive a car or a truck?

10. Do you know how to change the battery in a smoke alarm?

11. What is your best home remedy for a sore throat?