GROUP READ: The Elegance of the Hedehog

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GROUP READ: The Elegance of the Hedehog

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Abr 1, 2012, 3:58pm

Since Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog was slated to be a group read for April, I figured I'd go ahead and set up the thread. Has anyone started the book yet? If not, when are you planning to start? I probably won't get to it until the middle of the month, but I'm looking forward to a little Paris in the springtime!

Abr 1, 2012, 6:11pm

I read this one back in 2009. I will be lurking to see everyone's comments about the book!

Abr 1, 2012, 6:16pm

I'm hoping to start next weekend or immediately there after.

Abr 2, 2012, 5:58am

I'm looking forward to it as well, but probably won't get to it until the middle of the month or later unfortunately

Abr 2, 2012, 8:37am

I'll probably be starting it later this week.

Abr 2, 2012, 10:00am

I'll be listening to it on a car trip later this week.

Abr 2, 2012, 1:05pm

I grabbed it off the shelf earlier today knowing it was going to be theis month, but I also have an ER book to finish so I'll read slow.

Abr 3, 2012, 9:57pm

I started this evening, only a few chapters in.

Abr 5, 2012, 7:55am

I probably won't get to it for another week or two. I have a copy in a box at home that I need to dig out, but I've got some library books ahead of it. I didn't realize it was a group read. I just saw it listed on the TIOLI and knew I had it in a stash TBR and thought I'd share a read!

Abr 9, 2012, 7:48am

OK - I'll confess - I had to turn to my dictionary a few times already. Don't know what I thought this was going to be since it's been hanging around for a while, but it's very intense. I'm almost halfway through and going to take a break for a few days to read something lighter.

Abr 9, 2012, 8:33am

I finished it in about 2 days. I loved it; couldn't put it down.

Abr 9, 2012, 12:48pm

@ 10,11 -- Wow, that's two really different experiences! Now I'm curious to see what my own will be. Still in the middle of a stack of library books for now, though.

Abr 9, 2012, 4:27pm

I'm going to be starting tonight or tomorrow. High anticipation!

Abr 9, 2012, 10:30pm

I'm about a third of the way through, and I'm really enjoying it. I find Paloma's chapters really interesting and sometimes quite moving, but to follow the philosophy of Renee's chapters I have to concentrate a lot more.

Abr 12, 2012, 5:02am

My copy arrived while I was on holiday - thanks Katrinat! Will be starting it in the next few days.

Editado: Abr 13, 2012, 1:57pm

I finished it today, and I have to admit I had a tough time with it. So when others are ready to discuss, let me know! I'd like to know what others thought about it.

Abr 13, 2012, 12:37pm

I took a little break but will probably get back to it this weekend.

Abr 13, 2012, 4:24pm

I had the hardest time finding this thread because the word Hedgehog is misspelled in the title. Is there any way to fix that so that others can find it more easily?

Abr 13, 2012, 5:48pm

Maybe a star would help you find it. I don't think you can edit thread titles.

Abr 13, 2012, 6:19pm

I starred it once I found it!

Abr 14, 2012, 5:45pm

Whoa, I totally did misspell "hedgehog" -- oops! Doesn't look like I can fix it, but I did post a link to the thread in the 12 in 12 group info, and also on the "group reads" thread.

Abr 23, 2012, 9:37pm

I'm finally starting this book today! Figured I'd bump up the thread since no one has posted in a while. For those of you who have finished it, or are in the middle of reading, what are your thoughts? Anyone have any good discussion topics to post? (If you want to post a spoiler, that's fine by me -- just mark it as such for the people who haven't gotten there yet!)

Editado: Abr 23, 2012, 11:58pm

I started it a couple of days ago. I'm reading it in the French version and find it's so very FRENCH that I wonder how it translates into English. Not just in terms of language and meaning, but culturally. For instance, Renées character, how she describes the way people see a... is it "janitor" in English? (it's "concierge" in French) is very much a Parisian thing. I know exactly what she means about what the expectations are of a person of her class.

I'm also finding this book very dense. Enjoying it so far (though I'm just a few chapters in), but my concentration isn't optimal lately and getting my head around some of the concepts they're talking about is more than I'm able to do, so I just let some of it wash over me.

Abr 24, 2012, 11:44am

Personally, when I finished I wondered if the reason I didn't particularly care for it was because of the translation. I thought it was very heavy in its content and hard to warm up to the characters and their issues.

FYI - my translation had her as a concierge.

Abr 24, 2012, 12:16pm

I agreee that the beginning has some very heavy writing. I'm about halfway now and finding I'm liking it better. I think the English translation at least kept the "concierge". From some of the things she does (i.e. accepting packages, letting workmen in, etc), I thought she was something like a doorman would be.

Abr 24, 2012, 12:35pm

I'm 80-ish pages along right now, and I must say, I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would! Initially I had very low expectations; both main characters sounded so incredibly pretentious that I was prepared to hate them. But they're kind of funny, and I'm liking them a little bit in spite of myself! I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the rest of the book as well.

Abr 24, 2012, 3:04pm

I finished it yesterday, and I found it enjoyable. It was a bit different, but I did enjoy the characters with their secrets.

Abr 25, 2012, 7:16am

I really liked it, the quirky characters made me keep reading. If you had only read a couple of pages, you might have thought this would be a much lighter read, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I liked the mix of human drama and the subterfuge of clever characters.

As for the discussion on concierge, certainly it is not unusual in British English - there is one at my mum's work. It is a word that I associate with big cities, like Paris or London.

Abr 29, 2012, 5:09pm

I didn't care for it all that much. I didn't get many of the cultural references. I did like how Renee blossomed at the end.

Abr 29, 2012, 7:00pm

I just finished it and there were parts that I liked and parts that were rather heavy and dense. A lot of Renee's ruminations were thought-provoking and sometimes I had to just tell myself to move along and keep reading.

Abr 30, 2012, 2:35am

I'm not sure if I liked The Elegance or not. I definitely understood the idea of a concierge and found some of the class and cultural aspects really interesting, I hadn't realised Paris had a overt class structure although my (French) flatmate assured me this was true enough.

I found most of the book very insular, but really enjoyed getting to know Renee and Paloma near the end. I found the ending very sudden and quite unexpected, but moving. Paloma's thoughts were often beautifully observed and thought provoking however, especially earlier in the book, Renee's reflections were quite dense and I found it much harder to engage with her. Overall I have mixed feelings.

Abr 30, 2012, 1:39pm

I started this book thinking I would really dislike it. And indeed, Renee and Paloma both say some horribly unlikeable, pretentious things. The first half especially was hard going for me, but I thought it picked up a lot when Mr. Ozu moved into the building. The ending made me cry like a baby. I also loved the little side story of Jean Arthens, the young man who asked Renee what the camellias were called. I think Manuela was my favorite character overall.

Sorry, that was a bit of a jumble! I'll post a review at my thread once I have time to sit down and write it. Overall I liked it more than I thought I would. I was planning to read the book and then get rid of it, but now I'm not so sure.

One question for anyone who read this in French (I read it in English): are Palmoa's poems haikus in the French? In English they're not, but I suppose a translator can only do so much. :)

Maio 6, 2012, 2:02pm

The author really nailed the character of a pretentious teen-ager, to the point of having her sections be both annoying and dull. I do remember that feeling that all the people around me, especially those in my family, were idiots.

I slogged through the first 150 pages, but found the parts about the relationship between Renee and Ozu were just lovely and made up for the truly dreadful and stuck-on ending. Did the author just get tired of writing the book?

Incidentally, a good friend of mine read it and while she didn't love it, she won't hear criticisms of the book because it introduced her to Ozu's films, which she says are every bit as good as Renee says they are.

Editado: Maio 6, 2012, 8:47pm

#31 I totally agree with you Alana. I finished it a couple of weeks ago now, and still can't decide what I think of it. Been putting off writing my review for that reason, but when I get my thoughts together, I'll put a mention about it here for sure.

#32 Sorry I only just saw your comment now... In the French, I suppose Paloma's poems are haikus, but it's hard for me to know what a haiku is exactly (even though I have been known to write my own), since the Japanese system of syllables is so very different from the English or French concepts. Not sure that answers your question satisfyingly, but I tried. :-)

#33 Agreed, I loved the interaction between Mr Ozu and Renée, and also that the ending seemed stuck on. My mum who read it a while back (and who incidentally lives in France) said the same thing about the ending too. I personally think Barbery basically wrote herself into a corner and didn't know how else to end it. I also have another opinion, but not in the mindset to express it properly right now, so I'll keep it for when I get the courage up to write a proper review!