The Artful Readers Club #2

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's time for us to reveal the 2nd book review for the The Artful Readers Club. 

I'm shocked how quick this year is going already, its 22nd February already!

For this months book I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. 

In all honesty I have tried to read this book at least twice before and never made it past the 2nd page. 

I picked this book up in a charity shop a while ago and was swayed but the cover and the title. 

The book is centred around an apartment building in Paris where the concierge is trying to be a typical French concierge.   

The story is told from two points of view Renee the concierge and a resident of the apartments who is nothing like the typical concierge she doesn't own a poodle. She is self educated and is trying to do everything she can to keep up appernces. The second point of view is 12 year old Paloma, a girl of a high intelligence who is determined to make a dramatic change on her up coming 13th Birthday.

The residents of the apartments are all wealthy and are a complete contrast to the concierge. 

The book was originally written in French and has been translated into many languages and i think maybe some of the humour has been lost in translation. However saying that i really enjoyed this book. Its is well written and i learnt some new words. I will admit i did have to get the dictionary out a couple of times and google how to pronounce a couple of words. Saying that it's not overly highbrow so don't let that put you off. 

The story progresses through a number of almost parables and describes the goings on within the flats using modern totems to differentiate between the social classes and how people are compared with how they think they should be.

The two sides of the story intertwine when a resident of the flats passes away and the balance of the residents start to change when a new resident moves in. 

As mentioned Renee is keen to keep up the appearance of being a typical concierge, which seems to be an uneducated, TV watching, Poodle owning, unfriendly slob who boils cabbage all day and has no interests outside the apartments they work in, where as Renee doesn't watch TV but she does love films, she owns a cat called Leo, she is a self educated woman who reads all manner of books and does so far as to have a TV set up  while she hides in the back room. 

Paloma is a young girl of above average intelligence, who lives with her parents and older sister. She see things and processes them at a more adult level than her peers, she is also a lover of all things Japanese and is learning the language at school. She likes to spend time alone and her older sister likes to torment her by playing loud music, her parents are concerned about her and take her to see her mothers shrink. She manages to wiggle out of future visits by turning some of her knowledge about him on himself and this treat pays off. 

The new resident is a Japanese gentleman who is a gentle soul, during the renovation of his apartment befriends Paloma and tries to make friends with Renee, who is less receptive to this possible friendship. 
Renee has only one friend, a portugese cleaning lady who is from aristocratic stock, gradually as the story progresses barriers are broken down, Paloma uses Renee's sitting room as her hideaway from her parents, friendships  are made and lives are changed. 

There is so much i could talk about with this book but i am concern about giving away too much of the story. I know a couple of people have read this and i'd be interested to know your opinions of this, if you don't want to leave a comment please email me, i have a button at the top of the blog to my email addy. 

At the time of writting i haven't started my art, well i tell a lie i have drawn some random things in my art pad but i'm not happy with it. i think i am going to do a collage. I love paper and glue and I want to talk you through my idea for my art which i hope won't give away vital parts of the story but from the first part of the book i have had an idea of how i want my art to look.

The book uses modern totems throughout to describe people, classes and the stereotypes contained in it.

The first totem that is mentioned is the French Poodle, this is used to represent the low classes such as the concierge, who can be snappy, bad tempered and below the social standing of others they interact with. 

The next modern totem mentioned is the Cat, in the book there are lots of Cat's the Concierge owns one called Leo, the new resident has 2 Kitty and Levin, Paloma has 2 cats. The cats represent the upper classes, they often think higher of themselves than those around them, but are lazy, only show affection when it benefits themselves which seems to fit many of the other residents. The concierge it could also be said thinks better of herself for not being a typical concierge. 

there are other animals mentioned which are not necessarily totems but i want to include in my art and this animal is the Queen Bee, Paloma's older sister tells her a story of how the Queen Bee mates and i won't go in to details, but Paloma thinks this story isn't something her sister should go round telling people especially her boyfriends friends, how one females has to use a lot of males, this could be a totem of modern younger girls at university.

The final animal i want to use and how could a review of a book with Hedgehog in the title miss out. It is of course the hedgehog. The hedgehog is described as an outwardly prickly, using all their defences to  hide their true personality whilst inside they are refined, good natured, a good friend and over all elegant. 
It is a book about making friendships, resolving self issues, finding out how to be yourself and over all i want to give it 10 stars out of a 5 star rating. 

If you do pick it up please keep at it, it's a slow burner but is worth it.

The art is still work in progress, i really need a picture of a hedgehog, google is not inspiring me.

I have already started my March book, its a Chick Lit book, it has nice big writing and i won't need a dictionary! 

It's called the Vintage Tea Cup Club by ??? 

Have you read it? What did you think?   

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  1. Sounds a very interesting book Steph, and I look forward to seeing your finished art piece :D XXX

    1. It was very interesting, i really need to find myself a hedgehog

  2. Wonderful review Steph, very comprehensive without giving the game away. Look forward to your art, hope you find your hedgehog.

    1. Thank you, it is a little long winded but i can't praise this book enough!

  3. This book sounds like it works on many levels and has quite an interesting group of characters that draw you into their lives. Thanks for a great review, I will watch out for your completed artwork, good luck with tracking down your hedgehog.

    1. It was amazing, I really want to read it again and soon. Its quite hard to get into but worth it x

  4. Sounds like a fun book, Stephanie. May have to check it out...

  5. Oh, too bad you couldn't finish your artwork... I have some troubles with this year going in the fast lane too! There's so much to do and even more that I would like to do and weeks are just passing by...
    Glad your read was okay! :)

    1. I just need to find my perfect hedgehog. Google images didn't help me but he is out there somewhere

  6. Oh...I'm going to have to give this book another make it sound wonderful...I've only made it to page 74...
    Good luck with the art work.
    Hugs xx

    1. It's quite hard going but totally worth the effort x

  7. Not sure the book is for me... But then I also read vintage teacup club and it wasn't really for me either so hope you have better luck!

    1. It really is a fab book, much better than the vintage teacup club (which i've already read 3 weeks ago) but at least this way you don't have to put yourself through reading it now (the hedgehog book you've already suffered the teacups!)

  8. It does sound like a book you'd have to work at. The idea of totems is interesting. Had to chuckle at the bees, never thought about it like that :D

    Hope you had some Luck with your hedgehog.

  9. I'm not convinced this is a book for me, but I do love your tower of cats :)

  10. I'm not sure this is my sort of book but look forward to seeing your art. x


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