IT IS its own genre: apartment-building novels. In each apartment, a different storyline, a daily drama. Each character hides a secret life. Renée, 57, has been the concierge of a luxury Parisian building for 27 years. She looks and acts, outwardly, like a cartoon character, consciously playing the role. She pretends to watch TV incessantly. In reality, she has devoted her life to art, culture and "the quest of timelessness." Paloma, a 12-year-old autodidact who lives in the building, also hides her true identity, pretending to be an obnoxious pre-teen when, she is, in fact, a genius. She plans to kill herself at the end of the year, on the day she turns 13, to avoid the mediocrity of adulthood. All novels are bound together by tension, a kind of literary adrenaline that courses through the paragraphs. "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" is a high-wire performance; its characters teeter on the surreal edge of normalcy. Their efforts to conceal their true natures, the pressures of the solitary mind, make the book hum.
from the L.A. Times