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An 'absolutely wonderful' novel of hidden identities

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'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery
'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke to Gerilee Hundt at Bound2Please Books in Orange, Va.

Gerilee Hundt recommends a novel that rose to international best-seller levels of fame a decade ago, but shouldn't be missed if you didn't catch it the first time around.

Muriel Barbery's novel, translated from French, is "about two people who live a very ritzy apartment building in Paris," Hundt explained. "One of them is the concierge: She's a woman in her 50s, who doesn't want anyone to know how smart and educated and culture she is. So, she pretends to be a peasant, which everyone believes because they're rich and they can't see her. She's totally invisible to the rich people around her."

The second character is a 12-year-old girl, the daughter of one of the families who live in the building. She is "also keeping herself invisible, not wanting anyone to know who she really is."

The novel is told through their internal monologues, alternating between their perspectives. 

"There are class issues and lots of psychology and philosophy. It's a very intellectual novel," Hundt said. "When a third character is introduced, everyone starts to discover who these people really are and then the story starts to evolve ... It's really lovely and very dramatic, and of course there's tragedy and also a beautiful happy ending for one of the characters. ... It's absolutely wonderful."

 Elegance of the Hedgehog  Elegance of the Hedgehog