I've read quite a bit in July, what with all my travel and D being gone. Enjoyed this one quite a bit.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
Let's start this off with the blurb:
Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.
Basically, a secret genius concierge and a bright but disturbed little girl become buddies in this both sad and humorous novel. You have to be in the mood and aware before you get into it, but the plot is relatively simple and would probably take just a few chapters to relate. The majority of the book are philosophical discourses on class relations, famous thinkers, human relationships, and so on. As a recovering philosophy major, I really connected with this.
I suppose some of it is esoteric- she goes on a rant about phenomenology, a course I barely passed, about which normal, happy, well-adjusted people hopefully know nothing. But when I came across a reference I understood I found her comments to be intelligent and refreshing, plus you feel like you're in a secret society of savants. If you're looking for a story, you can find plots far more involved and entertaining than this. However, I enjoyed reading it, and felt smarter for having done so.