The Elegance of the Hedgehog Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The story is about a woman who works as a concierge in a building full of very rich people in Paris. Madam Michel, Renee, is a middle aged woman and she works as concierge for some very rich and nasty people at 7 Rue de Grenelle, Paris. She hides the fact that she is very smart and that she reads a lot by playing dumb, being very grumpy and refusing to get in close contact with any of her bourgeois employers. She comes form a very poor and uneducated family, both her parents being peasants.
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She was happily married but her husband, Lucien, also a concierge, died many years ago. She has a cat named Leo and a friend named Manuela who works as a cleaning lady for the families in the building.

One day, one of the rich people living in the building dies of a heart attack. The apartment is being purchased by a Japanese man named Ozu. Madam Michel loves Japanese movies and the Japanese culture in general so she takes some interest in the new guy. He is very nice to her so she can finally open up and discuss with him all her favorite subjects, old movies, philosophy, literature, music. He invites her to dinner and they spend a marvelous evening together in his huge apartment.   

Paloma lives in the same building. She is a twelve year old genius. She is the youngest daughter of a politician. She hates her sister, Colombe, and her shallow and stuck-up mother. She wants to set their apartment on fire and kill herself in the process. She thinks a lot and she writes a diary about movement, art and beauty and another one about her idiotic family.

She finds Mister Ozu very interesting and he invites her to his new apartment for tea and cookies.

Mister Ozu, Paloma and Madam Michel become close friends in a very short period of time. The like each other very much.

Mister Ozu invites Renee to a very expensive restaurant but she refuses at first. She tells Paloma that her sister died because one of the rich guys that she was working for got her pregnant. In consequence, Renee hates rich people and she tries to stay away from them so she will not die like her sister. Paloma tells her to get over her sister's unfortunate death and Renee goes out with Mister Ozu and eats sushi at some very posh restaurant.

The next day Renee, Madam Michel, gets killed by a cleaning van. Paloma and Mister Ozu mourn the loss of their friend and they are very sad. Paloma decides to move on with her life and find beauty in the world and she decides to stop hating her family.
Best part of story, including ending: I like this story because I think I can relate to the way a very poor but extremely smart woman might feel in the presence of all those idiotic rich people.

Best scene in story: I loved the scene where Madam Michel goes to the bathroom in Mister Ozu's apartement and after she flushes the toilet some loud music starts singing and she is so startled. The scene is priceless.

Opinion about the main character: I don't particularly like people who hide what they really are and I hate the fact that Renee remains a concierge even if she is so smart.

The review of this Book prepared by Andreea Lupei a Level 5 American Goldfinch scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Life of a profession:    -   maid Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   servant Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   French Unusual characteristics:    -   Extremely cynical or arrogant


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   France Misc setting    -   fancy mansion

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   little dialog

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Muriel Barbery Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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