The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
[C]athedrals have always aroused in me that sensation of extreme light-headedness one often feels in the presence of man-made tributes to the glory of something that does not exist … [and] tested to the extreme my ability to believe that so much intelligence could have gone to serve so futile an undertaking.
This book reminds me of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig. In both, I enjoyed the framing stories and the characters so much that having to read the philosophical parts in between was really trying.
In a bourgeois apartment building in Paris, we encounter Renée, an intelligent, philosophical, and cultured concierge who masks herself as the stereotypical uneducated “super” to avoid suspicion from the building’s pretentious inhabitants. Also living in the building is Paloma, the adolescent daughter of a parliamentarian, who has decided to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday because she cannot bear to live among the rich. Although they are passing strangers, it is through Renée’s observations and Paloma’s journal entries that the absurd lives of the wealthy are revealed. That is until a Japanese businessman moves into the building and brings the two characters together.