Best Books of 2012: Blog 1 of 12

As ever, the year has been one of delightful discoveries and occasional disappointments. My reading included a couple of books from the dim and distant past as well as several hot off the press. In alphabetical order of authors, I shall post the details every day over twelve days. Please comment and offer your best reads of the year. Here is the first.

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery, is beautifully translated by Alison Anderson and very elegant in French too. The basic premiss of this delightful novel is that Renée, a widowed Parisian concierge of later middle age, seen by the residents as honest, reliable and uncultivated, has a secret; the fact that she has profitably used her private time to study philosophy but, in order to enjoy her quiet, though erudite life, has managed to conceal her learning from those she serves until an unguarded remark is picked up by a new Japanese apartment owner. In parallel with her own story we are given the diary account of Paloma, aged 12 and three-quarters and a classical angry, teenage, younger sister of another family who seems to be contemplating whether or not to contemplate whether or not to commit suicide before her thirteenth birthday. Just as Renée seems to find genuine appreciation, and the alluring prospect of more besides, and as Paloma sorts herself out, the author, with bravura and perfect timing, uses her omniscient authority to bring the story to a conclusion just before it risks getting out of control. Verdict: 8.5 out of 10

Look for the second book tomorrow. Happy reading!

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