The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a novel by Muriel Barbery that tells the story of two unlikely friends, Renée and Paloma. Renée is a middle-aged concierge at a luxurious Parisian apartment building who hides her intelligence and wit behind a dull facade. Paloma is the precocious 12-year-old daughter of an upper-class family living in the same building. Over time, Renée and Paloma form an unlikely friendship when they both come to realize that they are more than what people assume them to be. Through their friendship, they are able to break down barriers and discover the courage and strength within themselves to make their own decisions.
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What is The Elegance of the Hedgehog about?
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a novel about the unlikely friendship between two people from very different worlds: a Parisian concierge, Renée Michel, and a young tenant in her building, Paloma Josse. The novel explores themes such as self-acceptance, the power of friendship, discovering beauty in small things, and how life is often stranger than fiction. It also touches on themes of classism and social injustice. Through their friendship, both Renée and Paloma are able to find inner strength and peace in the face of an often unjust world.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog: Book Club Questions
- How does the novel explore the themes of class and privilege?
- What is your opinion of Paloma's decision to keep her intelligence a secret?
- In what ways does Renee represent an alternative form of intelligence?
- What is the significance of the title The Elegance of the Hedgehog?
- How does Barbery use irony throughout the novel?
- How did Paloma's relationship with Kakuro change over the course of the novel?
- How did each character grow and develop by the end of the novel?
- What do you think Barbery is trying to say about materialism in The Elegance of the Hedgehog?
- Do you think that Paloma was able to find true happiness by the end of the novel?
- How could Renee's story be seen as a commentary on French society and culture?
What to say about The Elegance of the Hedgehog
- Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an incredibly insightful examination of human nature.
- I was impressed by the vivid characterization and depth of emotion in The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
- The narrative structure of The Elegance of the Hedgehog was very clever, allowing for a gradual reveal of the story's secrets.
- The juxtaposition between Renée and Paloma's perspectives in The Elegance of the Hedgehog was both poignant and thought-provoking.
- I found myself both laughing and crying at various points throughout my reading of The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
- One of the most striking elements of The Elegance of the Hedgehog is its exploration of class dynamics in contemporary French society.
- Muriel Barbery successfully captures a range of complex moral dilemmas in her writing in The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
- I was truly moved by how Muriel Barbery's use of symbolism to emphasize certain themes in The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
- In The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery seamlessly blends humor and philosophy to create a unique reading experience.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a beautiful story that celebrates life while simultaneously exploring its fragility and impermanence.
Top 5 Quotes from The Elegance of the Hedgehog
- "No one is ever sure of anything, except for the fact that nothing is certain."
- "We all have our secrets, and I had mine, but I kept them hidden away."
- "Life is a story that we tell ourselves, and we must choose which stories to believe in."
- "I wanted to be seen as I truly was, without being judged by my appearance or my social status."
- "Sometimes it's only when we lose everything that we are free to do anything."
Adaptations of The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The Elegance of the Hedgehog was adapted into a feature film in 2008, directed by Mona Achache and starring Garance Le Guillermic as Paloma Josse. The film was released in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan. It was also released on DVD in 2009. The novel was also adapted by French theater company La Fabrique Théâtrale into a stage play in 2011. The play was performed in Paris, at the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell. In 2018, a radio adaptation of the novel aired on BBC Radio 4 as part of the Classic Serial program. The adaptation starred Susan Lynch as Renée Michel and Tamla Kari as Paloma Josse. There is no podcast or television adaptation of The Elegance of the Hedgehog at this time.
Other books by Muriel Barbery
- Gourmet Rhapsody
- The Life of Elves
- A Novel Bookstore
Did you know?
The Elegance of the Hedgehog was the second bestselling French novel of the 21st century, selling over 2.5 million copies worldwide.