DNF: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery**Spoiler alert: This spotlight contains spoilers for The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Proceed with caution.**

This book was—in a word—awful. It started off badly, got a little better, but then quickly spiraled down into lameness from which I’m not sure if it recovered — I snorted in disgust and threw it down on the sofa a few chapters before the end, and nothing on earth could make me pick it back up again.

Reasons it failed

I disliked this book for two reasons:

1. It smells like pretentious in here

Could this book have been any more French, any more pretentious, or any more filled with useless blather that did nothing to forward the plot? Barbery’s novel reads just like the character Paloma’s journal: the pseudo-intelligent philosophical ramblings of a 12 year-old. It felt like the author was trying to come across as smart, and make these sweeping statements about culture and the wealthy and poor and blah, blah, blah.

I ended up doing a lot of skimming, trying to find the plot — which didn’t actually begin until half a dozen chapters into the novel, anyway.

Dull, dull, pointless, and more dull.

2. That ending. What. the. F**k.

As soon as Renée got hit by that car or bus or whatever it was, I literally threw the book over my shoulder onto the sofa. Just as we’re getting into a plot, just as we’re starting to have hope for her, blam! Dead.

What lesson is that supposed to teach? What point could there possibly be for Barbery to kill off a character just as that character is learning to be herself, and has made a couple friends? Why should a reader waste his or her time on this book?

I don’t know. Which is why I’m not. Onto something—anything—else.

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6 thoughts on “DNF: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

  1. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like it! It’s one of my favourite books!

    I can see where you find it pretentious- because it is a lot of the time. But for me it doesn’t detract from what’s being said, which I find interesting…at least from a theoretical perspective! And I think class and those kind of things are really interesting to me since it’s something I always think exists and impacts on my life and will in future will have an impact. So even if it is ramble, I enjoy reading it!

    But I’m totally with you on the ending- I never liked it. I think it was trying to make a point that the universe itself will not allow her to move out of her class/station in life. Bah!

    1. I agree that some of the more esoteric subjects discussed in the book are important and interesting; I just don’t think they were well-placed in this novel. The philosophical kept getting in the way of the concrete—the plot—and so I couldn’t fully enjoy either.

      Wow, hadn’t thought of the ending quite that way. Now I dislike the book even more! :p

  2. LMAO. I think this is the first negative review I’ve read about this novel. Everyone one else has just been falling over themselves talking about how great it is. Haven’t read it myself…

    I DO hate pretentious writing, though. Seriously hate it.

    1. It’s the first negative review I’ve read too. 🙂 I’m generally always skittish around novels that get rave reviews from magazine/newspaper critics — their idea of “good” is often the opposite of what I enjoy. But Hedgehog came recommended by a good friend of mine (although perhaps not so high on my list now!), so I thought I’d give it a try.

      I haven’t read much French literature, but if it’s all this pretentious I think I’ll avoid it.

  3. I haven’t read it yet but I keep hearing people really Loving It or totally DNFing it. I’ll have to pick it up one of these days and see for myself.

    1. This definitely seems like a love-it-or-hate-it novel. I wish I could see in it what others see, but it’s just not my forte. Good thing there’s so many other books to read!

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