Will’s letter to the book club:
I’m very excited that you are next reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – but also a bit nervous. This is a book my mother loved and kept insisting that I read so we could talk about it. (Our book club was mostly asynchronous, with our reading different books simultaneously and then swapping them). I resisted, but then as soon as I started I could see why I resisted. I didn’t much like it.
“Do you love it?” Mom would ask.
I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I would answer “Not yet…” instead of “No….”
But then I began to quite like it (when Mr Ozu enters the scene) and by the end, which did surprise me, I loved it. Really loved it. Since Mom had already read the ending, as she always did, she loved it from the start. Or perhaps she would have anyway.
Mom and I talked about starts and finishes. There are some books where we loved everything about them but the ending. And others where we weren’t entirely board until the end – On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan was such a book. We both felt that while a good book isn’t spoiled by a bad ending (you still had all the pleasure and insight you got leading up to it), a book you didn’t quite love could become one of your favorites if the ending brought it all home. That’s how I felt about The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I hope you do too.