Author: Muriel Barbery
Narrators: Barbara Rosenblat, Cassandra Morris
Published: 2006 Pages: 359
Audio Duration: 9 hrs, 34 mins
Genre: Literary Fiction
Summary: A middle aged apartment concierge, Madame Renee Michel, who has hidden her cultural proclivities from those around her and a teenage girl, Paloma, who is searching for a reason to continue to live in this seemingly meaningless world, are brought together by a strange new tenant, Mr. Ozu.
Why I listened: JoAnn made me. Well, her review did anyway. I was in an audio-lull and had just received an audible credit; JoAnn’s description of this one being a “thought-provoking, cerebral novel” had me knowing that it was just what I needed.
Thoughts in General: The book is written from the alternating perspectives of Madame Michel and Paloma. JoAnn warns that there is a slow start to the book and she’s absolutely correct–but pick this one up when you’re in the mood for character and writing-driven novels rather than a plot-driven novel. It is an incredibly quiet book that takes place mostly in the heads of the two characters, but I was surprised at how I longed to hear more of each ones thoughts.
Bottom Line: I will certainly be listening to this book again and I will also be picking up a hard copy. It’s a book that needs to be enjoyed slowly and indulgently like a decadent and rich coffee. But don’t be discouraged by the slow start–instead savor it–get to know these wonderful characters. And if slow isn’t your style, skip this one!
A note on the audio: The narration of The Elegance of the Hedgehog was absolutely fantastic. Barbara Rosenblat as Madame Michel is by far one of the narrations I have listened to–Rosenblat absolutely transformed herself into the character and made her come to life. She was emphatic and dramatic in all of the right places. My only quibble is a personal one–I was trying to listen to the ending while doing some basic tasks at work when I realized that I only peripherally knew what was happening. I missed out on a key moment and certainly learned my lesson about trying to multitask!!
This one has received some really rave reviews but also some mild ones. Have you read it? What did you think?
Also, while looking up the page numbers for this post I realized that it was originally published in France and that there’s a French movie. Huh!