"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


I feel very emotional about this book. Not in a sad-weeping-despondent emotional way but more in a I-am-so-enraptured-that-I-can-scarcely-catch-my-breath sort of way. It is hard to compare this book to anything that I've ever read before. Reading it elevated my thinking to an aesthetic level seldom experienced by me, at least by literature. Perhaps I touched this level more often while listening to some classical piece of music exquisitely executed like Dido and Aeneas by Purcell (mentioned on page 275 by Renee), Suite No. 3 in D Major by Bach, or when my daughter and the Tacoma Youth Symphony play Jupiter by Holst. I was swept up in in the language. I was enraptured. This is a beautiful piece of work: literate, funny, and tragic by turn.

Here are a few quotes that I like a lot:
"Someone is playing a classical piece on the piano. Ah sweet impromptu moment, lifting the veil of melancholy- In a split second of eternity, everything is changed, transfigured." p.106

"Every time, it's a miracle. Here are all these people, full of heartache or hatred or desire, and we all have our troubles...- it all disappears, just like that, when the choir begins to sing. Everyday life vanishes into song, you are suddenly overcome with a feeling of brotherhood, of deep solidarity, even love..." p.185

"What does Art do for us? It gives shape to our emotions, makes them visible and, in so doing, places a seal of eternity upon them..." p. 203

"Melancholy overwhelms me, at supersonic speed." p. 279

Though I have gushed about this book, I must caution that I recognize that this is not the book for everyone. It is full of "big words", many that I even had to look up in a dictionary. Also, the plot of the story is as much about language, literature, Art (capitalized), music, intelligence, and insight as it is about two females that live in the same building that are struggling with how to get along in the world.

I will definitely re-read this book some day.

Adult fiction, translated from French. 5 out of 5 stars.

2 comments:

  1. That section about the choir, about the rugby player's movement, and so many other parts made me wish I could write beautifully like that. They were WOW moments!! I copied the singing page and gave it to Justin; he thought it was amazing.

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  2. I know. There were so many wonderful, WOW quotes that I couldn't copy them all down here. I loved the Rugby player description, also. That is a wonderful idea to write out the quote about the power of music to transform mood for your choir teacher. I think I'll do the same for ours.

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