Hector And The Search For Happiness by Francois Lelord

Synopsis from back cover:

Hector is a successful young psychiatrist. He’s very good at treating patients in real need of his help. But many people he sees have no health problems: they’re just deeply dissatisfied with their lives. Hector can’t do much for them, and it’s beginning to depress him. So when a patient tells him he looks in need of a holiday, Hector decides to set off around the world to find out what makes people everywhere happy (and sad), and whether there is such a thing as the secret of true happiness.

This ‘modern fable’ is indeed just that – written as though for a child with simple, innocent observations not just about the nature of happiness, but about the whole world Hector discovers. The novel is short and fast paced. The idea of searching for happiness could be a very complex one, and it is one, as Hector notes, upon which religions are founded, endless scientific studies are conducted. The search as portrayed through Hector’s naïve eyes, however, is boiled down to an uncomplicated, unaffected set of observations; and while its light-hearted humor and cartoony feel make it an engaging and easy read, that isn’t to say it isn’t thought-provoking. The author occasionally captures massive ideas, powerful sentiments and universal truths in simple, offhand statements, belaying a cynical wisdom and witty intelligence beneath the outward style.

Hector’s unbiased attitude warrants no moral judgement of anything he encounters – or anyone. He travels between China, Africa, unnamed countries and associates with monks, criminals and other people from all walks of life, hoping to find a theory revealing the secret to true happiness. The serious nature of some situations Hector finds himself in is viewed through a narrow lens which looks only for yet another lesson about happiness. This morally unbiased observation of events gives a beneficially clear focus to the story and leaves the nature of all else for the reader to ponder. Among the diverse character cast there also happens to be a woman in every country, and while the innocent writing style romanticizes these encounters, the overall portrayal of women in the novel does (I feel) leave a little to be desired.

All this adventure is packed into only 162 pages and my only real criticism is that the book moves at such a pace that it ends up unable to adequately curb its momentum towards the end; I found it’s conclusion to be a little rushed and unsatisfying. The fact that the author is a psychiatrist slips through in some passages which feel a little forced and theoretical, particularly when it comes down to gathering Hector’s discoveries all together, but these aspects aside, it’s easy to see why the original French story was so successful. Hector & The Search For Happiness is in fact the first in a series of Hector’s Journeys, and also the inspiration for an upcoming film. It’s a charming, lighthearted tale which will make you smile and consider what you might find in your own search for happiness.


Publisher: Gallic
Release Date: April 2010

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