Monday, 6 September 2010

Many a true word....

"Many intelligent people have a sort of bug: they think intelligence is an end in itself. They have one idea in mind: to be intelligent, which is really stupid. And when intelligence takes itself for its own goal, it operates very strangely: the proof that it exists is not to be found in the ingenuity or simplicity of what it produces, but in how obscurely it is expressed."

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery

Two irritating people pretend to be less intelligent than they are. One is thinking about killing herself. Both waffle on about philosophy a great deal. I just kept imagining how these sort of characters would be lampooned in a P.G. Wodehouse novel.

I was intending to review this months ago, but... Barbery kind of did it for me in the text. See above... (oo, a saucer of milk for table two...!)


  1. haha- very true!

    I wasn't sure with this book whether at the end they were criticizing the main characters' way of interacting with the world or if the main characters were meant to be role models of some kind.
    Seeing them as deeply flawed makes me feel a lot more sympathetic to the book.

  2. At least we got a cute hedgie picture! :)

  3. I think maybe I will pass up on this then!

  4. Oh *dear* we differ again :) I really liked this book. Found it quirky & different.
    Liked the cute hedgehog pic. tho so you're not completely unredeemed :)

  5. I loved this book, too! I listened to it on audiobook though... and I wonder if that helped maybe - with leavening the stodginess and pretentiousness..?

  6. I have yet to read this but have been *meaning* to for ages and ages, its been languishing on the TBR. I am just not sure.

    I should give it to Granny Savidge Reads, she collects hedgehogs you know! I will leave you guessing if they are real ones or not...!!!

  7. I thought Elegance of the Hedgehog was a brilliant novel. The author, a professor of Philosophy, did not write this book to appeal to the masses- the character of the concierge is incredibly intelligent and her musings on culture, philosophy, meaning of live, etc. were at times totally over my head. However, these chapters were blessedly short and the story of the coming together of the lonely and misunderstood Paloma, the "hedgehog" concierge, and the new Japanese tenant was just heartbreakingly lovely. Give the book a chance, I think you won't regret it.

  8. This one has been too "popular" for me to give it a chance yet. Wildly popular titles tend to scare me off... :)

  9. Ugh, I couldn't get through the book. Thought the premise was ridiculous, and it went downhill form there...

  10. I own this book and still plan on reading it, but I loved your frank assessment of it. I can't wait to see if agree or disagree.

  11. Hee, you made me giggle, Simon, even if I did love the book!

  12. A friend whose taste in books is sort of like mine, though not always, recommended this book glowingly. I read about fifty pages or so (expecting to find what she found in it) and just stopped. I couldn't find a reason to continue.

  13. If a book has even one moment when it makes me laugh out loud it's worth reading. This one did.

  14. I don't remember you ever writing such a negative review. Sounds like one to avoid.

  15. Cat - I think I was too irritated to be sympathetic, but I like your interpretation better.

    Kristen - yes, a definite plus!

    Hannah - it wasn't awful, but it wasn't really worth bothering with... in my opinion, anyway!

    Alison - oh dear, we are getting incompatible with our books - but I'm glad you enjoyed it! Maybe I was just hoping for more because I loved the title...

    Paul - maybe that did help! I didn't hate it, so I'm pleased that other people liked it. I couldn't get to the book group where they discussed it, so I didn't find out what other people think.

    Simon - I am going to guess fake ones, but I quite hope that it's real ones :D

    Barbara - good to have the opposite view represented :) I think maybe I disliked the very things you liked!

    Susan - and often with good reason! I think the hype is what spoilt this for me. Maybe I'd have appreciated it if I'd come with lower expectations...

    Sherry - I thought we might agree on this one!

    Thomas - I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

    Claire - I was going to write a proper review, but that quotation seemed to sum up everything I didn't like about it, so I just went for amusingy scathing rather than insightful!!

    Yvette - I wouldn't have carried on if it weren't for book group... and then I couldn't get to the meeting anyway! Doh!

    leazwell - that's a good definition of a worthwhile read, I'm glad this one passed the test for you!

    Colin - that quotation was irresistible... so even though I've liked other books a lot less, this might be most negative review... I couldn't be bothered to find the redeeming features!

  16. Just wandered here from the other Muriel's week. Nice to find someone who agrees with my assessment of this book. I've found many who disagree.
    My prickly review.


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at