Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
This book arrived in my Recommended Items on Amazon a few months ago, and I immediately turned my nose up at the title, the name of the author (Muriel, for heaven’s sake), the cover art, and the fact it said “OVER 2.5 MILLION COPIES SOLD WORLDWIDE” in block capitals on the front.
But sometimes if something sits in my Recommended Items for too long I can’t really help myself, so I bought it whilst on a bit of an Amazon spree. And actually, I’m sort of glad I did. It’s not the kind of book that I would tell everyone to read before they die, nor would it even spring to mind if someone asked me what to read next - but I did enjoy it.
Most of the things I initially took a dislike to were forgiven when I found out it was a translation from the original French (well, except Muriel - even if you’re French you shouldn’t be inflicting that name on child, let alone on an author - so chicklit it hurts). The cover art and the evil capitals are down to the publisher desperately trying to market a book in translation to a mass audience. So fair enough. They don’t do justice to the book itself, though, which is actually engaging, intelligent, moving and rather beautiful. It deserves far more stark cover art; something that shows it to be a piece of highbrow intellectualism as opposed to the sort of trash people buy in airports.
The book is narrated by two characters in turn, and although they were rather too similar in style (arising, no doubt, from the difficulties of translation and the author’s own style), this was in part explained by the fact they were presented as kindred spirits. Besides, they were both convincing - as were the other characters. It is that and the sheer poetry of this novel that meant I didn’t regret doing exactly what the Amazon machine told me to do.
Final Word: Even I can’t get away with judging a book by its cover. But don’t name your kid Muriel if she’s smart.#books #reading #The Elegance of the Hedgehog #Muriel Barbery #lit #review