Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the
great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as
someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society’s expectations of
what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee passionate about
culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their
outwardly successful but emotionally void lives.
Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned
to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden
death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.
Everyone had something worthwhile to say about this month’s book. In fact, it took us a whole sixty minutes of discussion before we came to the mostly unanimous opinion that this is a great book and a most enjoyable read.
The story itself was not a new one … social misfit takes a chance and opens her life to others with positive outcomes. But the characters, and there are many … Renee, Paloma, Ozu and the many tenants, provide an extremely entertaining and profoundly relevant situation that struck a chord with our group.
We all found something of interest in this human web of relationships. Nancy picked out Renee’s reverse snobbery, Viti the conjuncture of old and young, and Lorna mentioned the pigeonholing of people which we all believed to be a pronounced theme throughout.
It was mentioned that as a translation this book may have lost something, but generally it was decided that the philosophical nature of the story came through and touched us with a good balance of what is needed for a worthwhile novel. Our group is not normally easy to please but Hedgehog draws on a poignant veneer of life that satisfied the discerning reader in all of us.