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The Elegance of the Hedgehog Audiobook

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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Audible Editor Reviews

The Elegance of the Hedgehog tells the story of a life spent in hiding. Madame Michel is the concierge of a luxurious Parisian apartment building, tending to the plants, signing for packages, and polishing the brass, retreating when she can to her rooms on the first floor. She keeps a television blaring where the tenants can hear it; she zealously polices her speech and gestures to keep from giving herself away. What is the secret she hides? Madame Michel is an intellectual. She knows Kant, but she's separated by class from other people who do, so she discusses his work with herself while we listen in. Her musings are voiced by Barbara Rosenblat, who lends an air of theatrical irony — an auditory raised eyebrow — to her descriptions of class blind spots and philosophical rabbit holes.

The other pole of the story is Paloma Josse, a 12-year-old tenant in the building, voiced by Cassandra Morris with an appropriate measure of sarcasm and outrage. Paloma is a wildly precocious girl raised in privilege who has all the gifts of intellect and all the faults of a pre-adolescent. She's grandiose — she favors us with excerpts from a journal titled "Profound Thoughts". She's happy to throw stones at glass houses, and even plans to burn hers down, with the aim of teaching her family a pithy lesson about deprivation. She describes the currently deprived in terms that, while well-intentioned, condescend and distort. She is, in other words, a burgeoning intellect in serious need of the influence of an adult she can respect. An adult, perhaps, like the 54-year-old concierge on the first floor. But it takes more than a ride in an elevator to truly meet a woman who has spent her life in hiding. The novel takes two world views, both meticulously constructed from sound philosophical materials, and happily pulls them apart. —Rosalie Knecht

Publisher's Summary

An enchanting New York Times and international best seller and award-winner about life, art, literature, philosophy, culture, class, privilege, and power, seen through the eyes of a 54-year-old French concierge and a precocious but troubled 12-year-old girl.

Renee Michel is the 54-year-old concierge of a luxury Paris apartment building. Her exterior (short, ugly,and plump) and demeanor (poor, discreet, and insignificant) belie her keen, questing mind and profound erudition. Paloma Josse is a 12-year-old genius who behaves as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter. She plans to kill herself on the 16th of June, her 13th birthday.

Both Renee and Paloma hide their true talents and finest qualities from the bourgeois families around them, until a wealthy Japanese gentleman named Ozu moves into building. Only he sees through them, perceiving the secret that haunts Renee, winning Paloma's trust, and helping the two discover their kindred souls. Moving, funny, tender, and triumphant, Barbery's novel exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

©2006 Editions Gallimard, Paris; (P)2009 Highbridge Company

What the Critics Say

"Gently satirical, exceptionally winning and inevitably bittersweet." (The Washington Post )
"An exquisite book in the form of a philosophical fable that has enchanted hundreds of thousands of readers." (Italian Elle)
"Kinetic minds and engaging voices." (New York Times Book Review)
"By turns very funny and heartbreaking". (Publishers Weekly)
"Life-affirming." (Time)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (3450 )
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4.2 (2287 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kaitlin 05-13-14
    Kaitlin 05-13-14 Member Since 2011

    A scientist in training with her head in the clouds. With no time to read but plenty to listen, audible has changed my life forever.

    ratings
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    "A lovely, touching surprise"
    Would you listen to Elegance of the Hedgehog again? Why?

    Oh most definitely. The story was very well told and the thoughts and dialog thought provoking and full of quirky details that I find enchanting. Really in the most wonderful way, it was quite literally elegant.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Elegance of the Hedgehog?

    Oh so many lovely spoilers would be given by the answer to this question. I will say there were many, but for now: A piece of sashimi. Red October. Cat names. Panties. The Journal of the Movement of the World.


    What does Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The juxtaposition of an older voice and a younger one. Not to mention the lovely accents to pronounce the words the way my mind never could.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it went rather slowly at times and gave you big pieces to chew between sittings. I think this is more a book for savoring than devouring.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F. Reyes Santa Fe, NM 04-26-14
    F. Reyes Santa Fe, NM 04-26-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dull listen"
    What would have made Elegance of the Hedgehog better?

    I read the prior reviews and gave this a chance, but the characters had no personality traits beyond self-satisfaction with their towering intellects. I listen while on long walks, so depend on books that have some plot or interesting characters. It doesn't matter to me if they are novels, or biography, or history, but they do need to be well written and interesting. While this may have been well written, it was so pedantic that I moved on to another book after chapter 6.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    There were some useful observations made by the characters, but they didn't push the characters or the action forward.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stevie D. Hollidaysburg, PA USA 03-27-14
    Stevie D. Hollidaysburg, PA USA 03-27-14 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very dissapointed couldn't even finish it."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    If the story hadn't been so tedious. I love a good book that gives its focus to deep character development, but this book did not come close. I tried to come back to this book several times while listening to other books in between trying to give this book a chance. Today I am giving up!


    Has Elegance of the Hedgehog turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Probably not, I will just have to read the one star reviews more carefully before making a purchase.


    What didn’t you like about Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris ’s performance?

    I loved Cassandra Morris, Barbara Rosenblat is a different story. Her voice grated on my nerves like sandpaper.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Cassandra Morris's voice


    Any additional comments?

    I would like to return this book

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Celia 03-19-14
    Celia 03-19-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "faintly annoying"
    What three words best describe Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris ’s voice?

    annoying, pedantic, annoying.


    Any additional comments?

    Could not get attached or interested in the characters, Just wanted them to get over it. I think maybe further in they might become interesting, but couldn't take it that long.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joange Rice, VA, United States 03-14-14
    Joange Rice, VA, United States 03-14-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Beautiful Story"

    I'm not a weepy person yet I shed tears at the end of this sweet book. No action here, no who dun it - simply a great story with characters I will think about for time to come. The author did a great job as did the readers. Very thought provoking and well worth the credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray West Deptford, NJ, United States 03-06-14
    Ray West Deptford, NJ, United States 03-06-14 Member Since 2013

    Retired Political Science professor from a community college. Especially like Legal Thrillers.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Always Within Never"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    There are some friends that could benefit greatly from this book, but most would not have the patience to uncover the beauty within.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Muriel Barbery? Why or why not?

    Likely, depends upon my mood.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The final scene.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it would be too much to tackle in one setting.


    Any additional comments?

    I agree with other reviewers who said that it was very difficult to get through the first half of the book, however the patient lister is rewarded for the effort. Throughout the book there are many nuggets of insight into philosophical understanding. The author is able to write with literary eloquence.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth Bain 03-05-14
    Ruth Bain 03-05-14

    RueRue

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    "No story but great narrators"
    Any additional comments?

    I could not listen to the entire audio. There was too much philosophical musing. Even the excellent narrators could not keep my interest.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan QUEMADO, NM, United States 03-05-14
    Susan QUEMADO, NM, United States 03-05-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not that elegant--except for Rosenblat"

    I bought this book after reading the reviews touting it as touching and funny. There were some truly touching and really funny moments and I enjoyed those very much. The problem was, I needed a degree in French and philosophy to understand the rest of the book. More intellectual babbling than I would have ever imagined I would tolerate. But I did tolerate it because despite all the blah-blah, I came to care for the characters.

    I finished the book but it left me wishing I had never picked it up, because it made me very sad.

    Rosenblat's narration was absolutely fabulous, and the only reason I will remember this book fondly.



    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lyl nashville, tn, United States 03-04-14
    lyl nashville, tn, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This book was a wonderful surprise"

    I bought this book because it showed up on Daily Deal. I have looked at its description many times in the past, but it didn't give me a clue as to what it is really about. One of the best books I have read in last 10 yes. Philosophy has never been presented in a more palative form!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA, United States 01-03-14
    Jennifer NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA, United States 01-03-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Self important and unlikable characters"
    What disappointed you about Elegance of the Hedgehog?

    I didn't like any of the characters in this book. The concepts of the novel were presented as lofty intellectualism, when in reality they were little more than subjects addressed in my introductory philosophy classes at university.


    Has Elegance of the Hedgehog turned you off from other books in this genre?

    What is this genre? Drab? This is not the usual kind of book that I read. It was a book club requirement. and I would not gravitate to something like this in the future unless compelled by some outside force.


    What three words best describe Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris ’s voice?

    Acceptable, non-invasive, unremarkable.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Elegance of the Hedgehog?

    Anything with the self appointed autodidact apartment manager. OR the self important over valued teenager.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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