Monday, June 14, 2010

BookLook June 17 "Elegance of the Hedgehog"

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
My daughter Alyssa and I started our own little book club this month. There’s just two members, living 2,000 miles apart in Chicago and Springville. She came up with the idea to take turns buying two books, one for her and one for me and then reading it together and talking about it by phone and email. Brilliant! Book clubs are all the rage lately and are made up of friends, neighbors, co-workers even congregation members. There are lots of good things about traditional book clubs and we plan to enjoy every one of them – except the treats at the end of the evening.
Our founder chose “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery for the first book to discuss. Translated from the French novel published in 2006 it is a best seller in Europe and the Americas. This is a great book filled with the beauty of language. It does require more concentration and dedication but it is worth the effort. More than a year on the New York Times Bestseller list doesn’t always equal a book we like but in this case the critics and millions of readers were right. “Both of the book’s protagonists create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renee with erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio.” We agree enthusiastically with this blurb from the NYT reviewer.
The novel is written diary style with the chapters revealing the thoughts and point of view of the twelve-year-old Paloma and the fifty-four year old Renee. They share a building in Paris where Renee lives literally on the bottom level as the impoverished concierge, and Paloma lives with her wealthy family above. Both live publicly according to the expectations of their social positions and privately share a passion for learning. Events bring them together and the story begins.
As Alyssa said in our recent book club phone call, “I feel like I want to read it with a yellow highlighter since there are so many great one-liners on every page.” Here’s just one example I marked in my copy describing Paloma watching an art film she rented from the library. “From time to time I rewind, thanks to this secular rosary known as the remote control.”
If you are looking for a book that is a little unusual for your book club I would recommend “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. Whether your group has ten members or two it will be an enjoyable read and an interesting discussion.

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