09 November 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

(Translated from the French by Alison Anderson)

The premise of this book is deliciously enticing.

Renee Michel is a fifty-something concierge of an elite hotel particulier for the extremely wealthy at 7, rue de Grenelle. She fits perfectly into the stereotype of what an elderly female concierge should be. But that's because Madame Michel makes a concerted effort to appear that way. In fact, she is an avid lover of art and literature, well-versed in philosophy and a language pedant. She strenuously, ingeniously and very funnily conceals this aspect of herself. Deep down she has a mortal fear of being discovered traversing beyond the constraints of her social class.

Paloma Josse is a twelve-year-old inhabitant of the building. She is intelligent beyond her years and has figured out the charade of adulthood - that we are children all, unaware that we are trapped in a goldfish bowl. Consequently she embraces the meaninglessness of life and has resolved to commit suicide, and, in a symbolic attempt to escape the goldfish bowl, burn down the apartment. Paloma too tries to hide her intelligence by donning a cloak of mediocrity. She resorts to hiding in order to pen down her thoughts in her diary. To which we are, happily, privy.

01 November 2010

Alligator by Lisa Moore

This was a bit of a difficult read - it is bleak and at some points horrifying. Set in St John's on the island of Newfoundland in Canada, it opens with a short narrative about an alligator whose jaw snaps shut on a man's head. Or rather, a man who sticks his head into an alligator's open jaw in front of an audience. A drop of his sweat lands in the alligator's mouth. Snap.