Autodidact: self-taught

Jun
30
2010

Elegance of the Hedgehog Review

by V. L. Craven

As previously mentioned here, I’ve been reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary. It’s from the fantastic Europa Editions , which consistently publishes little known (in the States) authors as well as uses the French flap binding that I’m in love with. Quality books in quality bindings–be still my heart.

But on to the review.

This book was written for thinkers, readers, writers, and anyone else who loves words and ideas and perhaps feels out-of-place in the world. As an avid reader, writer, and thinker, at times it seemed as though the book were written expressly for me. I can’t count the number of times I thought, “Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like!” in reference to a number of astute observations by our two protagonists–a young girl and a middle aged woman who have more in common than they know at the start.

A writer once observed, “The difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” Well, Muriel Barbery takes something that happens in real life but that typically comes off as contrived in fiction–the instant knowing a stranger is one with you–and gives it the certainty, without woowooness, of reality.

The ending is problematic for many people, and I can see why, but, as a writer, I can also see why Barbery chose to go the way she went. We can’t know if she chose to go that way because of practical reasons or for thematic reasons, but I chose to believe that her message was that once one reaches happiness–that is all one needs. That is the most perfect moment in one’s life.

Being that the entire book is about finding perfect moments, I can think of no better message to convey.

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