Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson. Europa Editions (2008), 325 pages.

There were problems with this book up until the end–an end that was powerful and sad and, yes, elegant. But I’m not sure it’s worth reading the whole thing just to get to the great ending.

The two main characters are a teenager and a middle-aged woman. The teenager is rather cliched, and the older woman’s insistence on keeping her true personality a secret is completely mystifying (in an annoying way, not an intriguing way). There is also far too much self-conscious philosophizing throughout the book.

But the ending! Finally, with just 15 or so pages left, we finally understand the older woman’s motives. Why couldn’t this have been shared a hundred pages earlier, so that we could relate to her better? And the tragedy, which I won’t reveal here, is so well done it almost redeemed the entire book.