The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

This novel was a sensation in Europe, making multiple bestseller lists and eliciting wild praise from reviewers in France, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. “Elegance” tells the story of a 54-year-old Paris concierge/intellectual, a precocious 12-year-old girl, and the Japanese gentleman who instantly sees through both of them, changing their lives forever. So how did the book go over in this American household? I’m giving it an A-, which is high praise coming from me. I do recommend it, although I’m not going to suggest it to my book group to read for the December meeting because I can imagine all too easily the conversation we’d have. It would go something like this:

Jen: I got about halfway through it. (She has a baby, which is a great reason not to finish a book for book group.)

Steph: I thought it bogged down in spots. But it had a cat on Prozac, just like Leonard!

Jenny: And like Smokey!

20 minute digression as we discuss our vets and what they have and haven’t done right with our pets.

Dana: I thought it was funny in spots and beautiful in others, but I really didn’t like the ending.

Me: I agree. There were several different ways to end the book, and I thought Barbery could have done something more ambiguous or nuanced.

Jenny: The portrayal of Paris seemed realistic based on my experience.

20 minute digression as we discuss international travel and a couple of recent vacations.

Steph: Paloma’s parents were nightmares, but she was a bit annoying herself.

Jen: The sister was pretty awful, too. Most of the characters were portrayed pretty favorably, though. Maybe I’ll finish reading it.

45 minute discussion of the election and the new administration.

Bottom line: we’ll hit the highlights quickly and not discuss the book much. This happens about half the time. I’m recommending the next batch of books, from which we’ll select the December book, and I’m trying to select candidates that will keep us engaged. I’m not confident we’d stay on-topic with this one.

So, to sum up: excellent book with an ending that isn’t as nuanced as I’d like, slow in spots, funny in spots, insightful, definitely worth reading. As for animals, since that’s the purpose of this blog, this book is entirely SAFE for animal lovers. The concierge’s cat, Leo, is mentioned quite a bit. The 12-year-old’s family has two cats as well, Constitution and Parliament. A cocker spaniel named Neptune bounds through a few times, as does whippet named Athena. Plus, there is a young vet med student, Olympe, who is among the more endearing minor characters. It’s too bad she isn’t real, because Steph is looking for a new vet and after the cat-on-Prozac discussion, I’m sure she’d want to take Leonard to Olympe’s practice.


October 8, 2008 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, cats, humor, literature, pets | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. That’s why I never joined a book group. I spend much of my work hours editing out tangents. I don’t think I’d want to do that in a room full of fun people!

    Comment by Terri | October 13, 2008 | Reply

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