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Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons The Elegance Of The Hedgehog Is For Grown Ups

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. This week I’d like to take a page from Gretchen Rubin, who blogs over on The Happiness Project....

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week I’d like to take a page from Gretchen Rubin, who blogs over on The Happiness Project. From time to time, Gretchen will identify a book or movie that she thinks encapsulates certain key ideas about happiness and blog about them. (Here’s one example:  a post about the movie Junebug.) I did this recently for adulthood and the film Up In The Air.

In that vein, I’ve just finished reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance Of The Hedgehog for my book club. This is a very small, intimate novel about an exceedingly well-educated concierge in a Paris apartment building and her relationships with its tenants. In addition to thoroughly enjoying it, here are five reasons I think that this book is essential reading for grown ups:

1. It’s about social class. Not a very American topic, I grant you. (Unless you bought into the whole John Edwards “Two Americas” thing- oh those were the days…). But boy, does it resonate over here in the U.K. right now, where social mobility is a major theme in the upcoming British elections. (Not to mention a time-honored theme in France, where the novel is set.) And to me, that’s a very grown-up topic for a novel.

2. It’s about the possibility of change. Which is – perhaps more than anything else – what defines adulthood, at least for me. Sure, all those personality tests I’ve taken basically confirm that I’m the same person I’ve always been. But growing up is about being open to change. It’s about knowing that  – however sure you are of yourself – there’s always a possibility that you’ll discover something new. Or find out that something you thought was closed off to you is actually within reach. Or just recognize when it’s time to make a bold move.

3. It’s about love. But not of the sappy, head-over-heels variety. Rather, it’s about the love of one’s friends. It’s about the love you can experience when you connect with strangers. And it’s about the possibility – but just that – of romantic love.

4. It has an appropriately bittersweet ending. Some will no doubt be disappointed by how this book ends. I won’t spoil it for you. But as a die-hard fan of feelbad movies, I loved reading a book where the ending was less than 100% hunky-dorey. That’s life, as they say.

5. It’s about Paris. And what – pray tell – is more grown up than that?


Today I’m over on talking about the central role that women voters will play in the upcoming British General Election.

Image: Hedgehog skin by gari.baldi via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Michael Maupin March 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    Sounds a lot like another Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain!

  2. Daryl Boylan March 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    (1) Is TEOTH available this side of the pond??
    (2)Glad to hear Brit politics are high-lighting femmes — if it leads to electing Cameron are we going to be glad about that?

  3. Sarah Ryan March 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    We missed you for the discussion. I LOVED the book but it was interesting as we were sharply divided. Some of us loved it, the other half hated it. The sign of a truly good book…

    • delialloyd March 17, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

      yeah so sorry I missed it, Sarah. interested to know what those who hated it didn’t like about it. I always prefer the meetings where we disagree strongly…

  4. athena March 17, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    I have this on my to-read list, and now I think I want to bump it up. :-)

  5. delialloyd March 17, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    athena-great! daryl-yes! michael-dont know that one!

  6. Michael Maupin March 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

    It was more commonly known as Amelie (film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet)…sounded like a similar story, to a degree :-)

  7. delialloyd March 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    ah yes. saw it. right! having very vague memories of that one. but this one did remind me (ever so slightly) of The Remains Of The Day.

  8. donnatrussell March 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Sounds lovely.

    Your comrade in feel-bad movieness…

  9. delialloyd March 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    thanks d!

  10. Sarah Ryan March 18, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    I think the main reason people didn’t like is that they found the characters pretentious and unlikeable, especially in the first half. i, on the other hand, found them hilarious in the first half and wonderfully endearing in the second.

    • delialloyd March 19, 2010 at 11:56 am #

      me too. but i guess that’s what makes for a good discussion!

  11. Eva March 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I love #2 – the possibility of change. I wholeheartedly agree: growing up is about accepting change, perhaps even embracing change.

  12. rachel March 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Ringing in late – I nibbled at this one in the train store bookstores for weeks (it’s still there as a matter of fact) but wasn’t inspired to put on list. Perhaps I’ll give it another try.


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