The Elegance of the HedgehogBy Muriel Barbery
Renee Michel is the 54-year-old concierge of a luxury Paris apartment building. Her exterior ('short, ugly, and plump') and demeanour ('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 sixteenth of June, her thirteenth 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 the 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.