I wasn't sure about The Elegance of the Hedgehog when we first decided to read it for RBC. I hadn't heard much about it, but I decided to give it a go anyway (plus I got it for really cheap via the book depository). But it only took a few pages for me to begin to fall in love with it.
The story features two characters. Renee is a 50-year-old widowed concierge. She is well-educated, though self-taught. She enjoys Russian novels, classical music, and Japanese films, but she pretends to be just another dull concierge and fools all the tenants. One of the tenants is Paloma – a 12-year-old girl who is planning on killing herself and burning down her family's apartment on June 16 (Ulysses reference?). Then a new tenant moves into the building and everything changes. I don't really want to say too much else because I want you all to discover it on your own.
It was a very enjoyable read. I generally try to read book club books slowly with the schedule, but I just had to finish this one. I actually ended up finishing it on the flight back to Florida which really says something about the book because as an anxious flyer under the influence of prescription drugs concentration doesn't come easily.
The book was full of beautiful language and thought-provoking ideas. The book is originally French, but the English translation is wonderful. I started taking notes in the margin as a I read it but about 70 pages in I got too absorbed by the story (and I think I need to accept my fate as someone that does not make margin notes).
I'm looking forward to reading Barbery's other novel, Gourmet Rhapsody.