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Vision and Verb

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Featuring a sampling of our personal favorites in our latest gallery...

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Recommended Reading

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Sea Change by Jeremy Page

 The Expected One by Kathleen McGovan



« The War of Art | Main | The Elegance of the Hedgehog »

The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Discussion

1. So, my first question has to be, did you cry at the end? Were you surprised? Shocked?

2. Did you struggle with the beginning? And if so, did you feel that it was worth it once you got past the first few chapters? Do you think this might have had anything to do with the translation?

3. Did you find the characters likeable? Lovable?

4. Do you think Paloma's feelings were true, that we compromise the best parts of who we are as we become adults?

5. Someone I talked to about this book said it was filled with profound, but adolescent, philosophy. Do you agree? Do you feel that the philosophies woven throughout added to or detracted from the story?

6. Do you think the main point of the story is the wisdom of age that we pass down to our youth, or the fact that there are times when, indeed, love does conquer all? Both? Or something entirely different?

7. Do you think the book has a message?

8. Did you feel that the romance between Renée and Kakuro was real-to-life, or a bit too fairy tale? Does it matter?

9. What role did the nationalities of the main characters play in the book? Do you think it would have been different if they were American, or some other nationality? Do we automatically assign a certain romanticism to certain nationalities?

10. Did you feel like the characters were over-stereotyped? Do you think this was a useful tool in the telling of the story? Or did you feel they were not stereotyped at all?

11. Did you find any answers about the meaning of life within the story? Or did it raise more questions?

12. Sometimes, you read a book and you know immediately that in some small way, your life has been changed. Did you feel that way about this book?




Reader Comments (7)

So much to comment on here.

Yes - I cried at the end. I was both shocked and surprised..and - in some ways -a little disappointed. There was so much room for character and relationship growth and development..and - it was cut so short. Yes - I definitely cried!!!

I didn't particularly feel that the characters were stereotyped..or that the romance between Renee and Kakuro was too fairy tale. Or - maybe it's that I love a good fairy-tale..with all of the magic and possibility that comes with it? I thought the characters were portrayed as exactly who and what I'd imagine they'd be..in the roles they were 'assigned' in their lives.

It was awhile ago that I read it - but I do remember thinking that there were huge life lessons here...that in both the innocence and sweet adolescent wisdom - were the stories of relationships and life. That there is a capacity for love - in all of us - no matter what our socio-economic status or caste or race. That we need only to be open-hearted..and be present to it.

And - I listened to the book on my ipod while out walking. Had no difficulties at all getting into it at the beginning..or staying with it thru the end. I think hearing the characters played out in different voices really brought it to life and helped.

I"m sure I have lots more to add and say..but curious to see/hear other's responses.

Thanks Kelly. A wonderful book choice!

April 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarcie

Yes, I cried, and I think I agree, I was disappointed, although after thinking for a while, it seemed like the only possible ending, like it was all leading up to just that.

And yes, life lessons. So many snippets that I kept having to stop and right down as quotes I love. I actually want to re-read this book at some point, it was so much to absorb, despite the relatively short length.

I did kind of feel like their romance was unlikely, but at the same time, I loved that it happened. So yes, a bit fairy-tale, but who doesn't love a good fairy tale? I think we all have that little part of us that believes in Prince Charming.

The questions on stereotype kept showing up in some of the question guides I looked at, I thought it was interesting because I hadn't felt that way, hadn't really thought of that, so I was interested to see how other people felt.

I definitely felt that this book was a keeper, and by that I mean that at this point in my life, a book has to be very special to retain a place on my bookshelves, to not be one that I pass along to others. I felt something in me shift as I read it, and those are the books that mean the most to me.

I did have trouble with the first few chapters, but sometimes that is an external thing, I can never really tell. I just know that once I got past that point, I couldn't put it down.

Looking forward to hearing thoughts from the others as well!

April 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

Sorry ladies I have tried and tried first the English version and when I got stuck there I tried the Swedish translation. I can't get pass the first chapters and this is not a book for me at all. That is also a thing that happens to me ever so often, no matter how I try and want I can't get myself to read some books. A book must catch me in the beginning or else I can't get pass the first chapters.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrida

"Will Americans embrace a heroine who skulks like a spy among the intelligentsia, an apparently unlettered concierge who secretly disdains Husserl’s philosophy, adores Ozu’s films and is so passionate about Tolstoy she named her cat Leo? Or will Muriel Barbery’s studied yet appealing commercial hit be a purely European phenomenon, exposing a cultural fault line?"

I read this in the New York Times online and wondered what anyone else thought (the rest of the article is here http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/books/review/James-t.html).

I have to admit that I have really struggled with this book, but NOT for the reasons that you are probably thinking. It's not available here so I had to download the iBook of it on to my ipad, and I've realised that I CANNOT bear to read like that. I started with a real will to get over this stumbling block, to appreciate that words - wherever and however they appear - are still words and cannot lose their beauty. But I'm still really struggling. The quote above really appeals to me, I love the mix and the quirkiness of the first chapters I read.... enough so, that when I get to Nairobi in the next couple weeks, I will check out any bookshops they might have (certainly more than Arusha).

Does anyone else read via iPad or Kindle and have any tips :)

April 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterEliza

Eliza, I have not yet taken that step, although just now I am reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, which is over 1200 pages long, and I was joking last night that I wish I had a kindle because the text is so small and the book is so heavy!
but i love the feel of a book in my hands, i am not sure i will ever make that leap, although i do sometimes long for the convenience.

as to your quote... i think this book truly does transcend nationality, it is a book about the human condition and i think that everyone could relate to it in some way. i hope you are able to put your hands on a copy!

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

my next cat is going to be called Leo in complete copy of the above - and because I have read war and peace at least 5 times (honestly :)

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereliza

I want to read it, but to be honest I got stuck at page 100 and haven't returned to the book for over two weeks. I want to follow the discussion but won't be able to participate.

April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPetra

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