Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog / by Kamie Chang Kahlo


This weekend might be a good time to slow down, put on your favorite cozy slippers and take in some life lessons from french novelist and professor of philosophy Muriel Barbery.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a french novel that was wildly successful in Europe and parts of Asia. The main characters are an autodidact widowed concierge and one of her tenants, a 12-year-old preparing for her suicide. The author switches back and forth between the two women's thoughts and journals. Each chapter or essay is no more than 2 - 4 pages but replete with profound philosophy, wit, art, culture, class definitions and thoughtful poetry. I have found myself reading sentences over and over to deconstruct the meanings. I keep a dictionary handy too, unabridged, for the excessive vocabulary from the former character. I understand that the critics were waiting to see how the American public would receive such a truly french novel. Philosophy-based novels are not the norm on our best-seller lists. At the time of this publication date, Barbery’s novel has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 59 weeks. It seems that heady intellect with a dash of charming spirituality is not limited to our European and Asian cousins.

In short, if you are not sure where your life is headed and it's meaning seems lost, please read this. It may not answer you directly but it will enlighten your direction.