It is a two-voice novel. Two women. Renée and Paloma. So distant for so many reasons but so similar, quite twin souls. The most significant feature they share is an extreme solitude due to the fact both have extraordinary sensitiveness and intelligence which they try to hide. Then they share a wonderful gift, that of recognizing Beauty when they meet it.
Someone has written this book belongs to a distinct subgenre: the accessible book that flatters readers with its intellectual veneer. Le Figaro has described it as 'the publishing phenomenon of the decade'. Elsewhere, there were comparisons to Proust. It sold more than a million copies in France and has won numerous awards. It is a profound but accessible book which elegantly treads the line between literary and commercial fiction.
What I can say is that I loved reading it. It was a delight! Muriel Barbery - a Paris-born one-time philosophy teacher who now lives in Japan –explores her favourite theme: philosophy as applied to everyday life. It is full of philosophical clever and profound remarks, art, music, cinema, literature references but it is also an amusing enjoyable comedy at the same time – I laughed out loud more than once! It is a pity I read it in Italian and I couldn’t find a good translation on line to share some excerpts with you. Don’t ask me to translate them. I wouldn’t dare. Ok. I’ll make an effort. Just a sentence, when Paloma decides to go on living and to forget about committing suicide: