August 2008 Indie Next List
“The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a beautifully written novel, translated from the French, with unforgettable characters, Renee, a concierge with a rich inner life, and Paloma, a surprisingly talented young girl. Read it and get a reality check on who we are beneath our images of age, class, and occupation.”
— Jane Jacobs, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
April 2009 Indie Next List
“This novel of two remarkable characters, set in an elegant Paris apartment building, is wonderfully written and translated! I loved the philosophical discussions and artistic descriptions -- my reading group talked about this book for hours.”
— Mary K. Cowen, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL
September 2009 Indie Next List
“This story of an aging concierge and a 12-year-old girl in an exclusive apartment house in Paris was a huge hit in France. Pithy, erudite, and full of heart, this book should be on everyone's must-read list.”
— Lisa Wright, Oblong Books And Music,LLC., Millerton, NY
A New York Times Bestseller
We are in an elegant hotel particulier in the center of Paris. Renee, the building's concierge, is short, ugly, and plump. She has bunions on her feet. She is cantankerous and addicted to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she is everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. But Renee has a secret: she is a ferocious autodidact who furtively devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants--her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth.
Then there's Paloma, a super-smart twelve-year-old and the youngest daughter of the Josses, who live on the fifth floor. Talented, precocious, and startingly lucid, she has come to terms with life's seeming futility and has decided to end her own on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renee hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renee's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
About the Author
Muriel Barbery is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa, 2008), and Gourmet Rhapsody (Europa, 2009). She has lived in Kyoto, Amsterdam and now lives in the French countryside. Alison Anderson's translations for Europa Editions include novels by Selim Nassib, Amelie Nothomb, and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. She is the translator of The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa, 2008) and The Life of the Elves (Europa, 2016) by Muriel Barbery.