I just finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.
From the inside flap:
We are in an elegant hotel particulier in the center of Paris. Renee, the building's concierge, is short, ugly, and plump. She has bunions on her feet. She is cantakerous and addicted to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she is everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. But Renee has a secret: she is a ferocious autodidact who furitively devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants-- her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth.
Then there's Paloma, a super-smart twelve-year-old and the youngerst daughter of the Josses, who live on the fifth floor. Talented, precocious, and startingly lucid, she has come to terms with life's seeming futility and has decided to end her own on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop subculture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renee hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a new tenant arrives, a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu. He befriends Paloma and is able to see through Renee's timeworn disguise to the mysterious event that has haunted her since childhood. This is a moving, witty, and redemptive novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
Honestly, I did not enjoy this book at all. I had to force myself to read it. If I was one of those people who stopped reading after a certain number of pages, I would definitely have given up. I know that the book was translated from French to English, so I am not sure if that has something to do with why I didn't enjoy it. I just know that I didn't feel any connection to the characters or any warmth. I really had to struggle to pay attention. I wanted to like this book because I heard such great things about it, but I just didn't and am glad that I am done so I can move on to another book!
I gave this book a rating of 2/5.