Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. 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: ...
Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. 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. By turn moving and hilarious, this unusual novel became the top-selling book in France in 2007 with sales of over 900,000 copies to-date.
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I loved this book. The first half was hard reading, but I persevered. The last half of the book flew by with great charm. It finished with a stunning shock.
Apr 11, 2013
Thought-provoking and a great read
This book has two narrators who are very different yet have much in common as their lives come together and intertwine. Philosophy becomes reality, as both are unwilling to live without the masks they have chosen. Unmasking takes place in unexpected ways. A great read, and a great book for discussion.
Oct 20, 2011
through the looking glass
The simply beautiful story people made me feel like I was walking through the Looking Glass and seeing some corners of myself, and viewing beautiful people that I will always remember. Witty, touching, warm and loving. I will read it again. . . and again.
Jul 10, 2010
Title is slightly deceiving
beautifully written story of two completely different yet oh so alike individuals!
May 20, 2010
This very beautifully written book is full of gems of wisdom and insight. I found myself underlining whole passages every few pages. It's a bit philosophical and the vocabulary is occasionally above the average reader's level, but it's well worth the effort to read to the end. The main characters change and grow to discover that life does have meaning and purpose.
Publishers Weekly, 2009-08-31 This audio version of the surprise French bestseller hits the mark as both performance and story. The leisurely pace of the novel, which explores the upstairs-downstairs goings-on of a posh Parisian apartment building, lends itself well to audio, and those who might have been tempted to skip through the novel's more laborious philosophical passages (the author is a professor of philosophy) will savor these ruminations when read aloud. Tony Award-winning actress Barbara Rosenblat positively embodies the concierge, Renee Michel, who deliberately hides her radiant intelligence from the upper-crust residents of 7 rue de Grenelle, and the performance of Cassandra Morris as the precocious girl who recognizes Renee as a kindred spirit is nothing short of a revelation. Morris's voice, inflection and timbre all conspire to make the performance entirely believable. A Europa paperback. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2008-05-19 This dark but redemptive novel, an international bestseller, marks the debut in English of Normandy philosophy professor Barbery. Renee Michel, 54 and widowed, is the stolid concierge in an elegant Paris hotel particulier. Though "short, ugly, and plump," Renee has, as she says, "always been poor," but she has a secret: she's a ferocious autodidact who's better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building's snobby residents. Meanwhile, "supersmart" 12-year-old Paloma Josse, who switches off narration with Renee, lives in the building with her wealthy, liberal family. Having grasped life's futility early on, Paloma plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. The arrival of a new tenant, Kakuro Ozu, who befriends both the young pessimist and the concierge alike, sets up their possible transformations. By turns very funny (particularly in Paloma's sections) and heartbreaking, Barbery never allows either of her dour narrators to get too cerebral or too sentimental. Her simple plot and sudden denouement add up to a great deal more than the sum of their parts. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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