An All-Time Favorite! If you haven't read it yet, you must. Set in a fashionable Paris apartment house, Elegance of the Hedgehog features two distinctly intelligent female protagonists. The middle-aged concierge Renee, an auto-didact whose intellect is hidden by her very position at the building's ground floor; and Paloma, the precocious 12-year old on the top floor. Barring its tragic ending, this is one of the more delightful novels I've ever read.
— From Fiction
The international bestseller that has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
is a moving, funny, atmospheric novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
We are in an elegant hotel particulier in the center of Paris. Renee, the building's concierge, is short, ugly, and plump. She has bunions on her feet. She is cantankerous and addicted to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she is everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. But Renee has a secret: she is a ferocious autodidact who furtively devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants--her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth.
Then there's Paloma, a super-smart twelve-year-old and the youngest daughter of the Josses, who live on the fifth floor. Talented, precocious, and startingly lucid, she has come to terms with life's seeming futility and has decided to end her own on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renee hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renee's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her.