I’m going against the trend here …

Hector & the Search for Happiness by François Lelord

About a week ago I’d just started reading this book when Simon at Savidge Reads (him again!) posted about it.  Simon wasn’t keen, and it seems the majority of commenters weren’t either – finding it too cute and patronising, but I was rather enjoying it as did Rosy B at Vulpes Libris who has written a brilliant piece about it.

It’s a simple premise. Hector is a young psychiatrist; he loves his job and is good at it, but he’s finding that sorting out depressed people every day was beginning to drag him down too. Also his longterm relationship with Clara is stagnating.  So he decides to take time off and travel around the world visiting his friends and colleagues to see if he can find out the secrets of happiness. He flies off around the world where he meets and falls for a Chinese callgirl, encounters a very wise old Chinese monk, negotiates with drug barons and gets kidnapped in Africa, and visits a professor of happiness while staying with friends in the land of ‘More’ before returning to work via another visit to the Chinese monk to tell him what he’d found out. All ends are tied then up neatly.

Hector’s author is himself a psychiatrist, and in the short Q&A at the back, he tells how he wanted to write a sort-of self-help book as a novel, but it is this epithet of ‘self-help’ that seems to have put peoples’ backs up.  If you ignore this aspect and read it as a novel, it is great fun, full of great observations about life, and it definitely has a droll sense of humour. The naive fablelistic (is that a word?) style may not be to everyone’s liking but suited me fine, although the neat ending was a bit of  a copout.

This the fourth title I’ve read from Gallic Books and I’ve enjoyed all of them, finding a strong liking for contemporary French literature. (8/10) I bought this book.

To order from Amazon.co.uk click below:
Hector & the Search for Happiness (Hector’s Journeys)

12 thoughts on “I’m going against the trend here …

  1. It wasn’t the self-help that made me not care much about this book and reading the Question and Answer section at the end of the book made me think I’d have liked it better it it had been a straight-forward self-help book. What I wasn’t keen on was the style. I like fables and I like novels – this was more a fable than a novel and as a fable I found it too simplistic. As a novel it just wasn’t my cup of tea. As I wrote in my post on it -‘each to his own’.

  2. This book is a bit of a talking point, whether or not you enjoyed reading it!

    I wanted it to be a novel, not a self-help book as I dislike them a lot – luckily I didn’t discover the Q&A until I’d finished the story.

  3. I like French novels but have never yet read a self-help book – having glanced at enough when I worked in the book ordering department of WHSmith to know that they really are not my cup of tea as the vast majority struck me as being common sense dressed up with buzz words and business speak!
    After your review, I might read Hector if it crosses my path (in the library) as I do like quirky books but I don’t think that I would buy it (even if I didn’t have a self imposed ban on buying books)

    • This was sweet, amusing and quick to read Liz, I’d be interested to see what you think if you do read it.

  4. I am glad you carried on enjoying it Annabel and can see why some people would, I just got so narked off with the narrator almost patting me on the head and stroking my arm as we went along like I was a child hahaha. I know lots of people that have really liked it and two million sales mean I am probably much more against the general trend hahaha.

    And what did you mean by ‘him again’ the cheek! Hee hee.

    • Jessica, I ignored the whole self-help thing, gave a mental Gallic shrug and just read it. It’s not life-changing and as a sort-of philosophical novel is way superior to the absolutely awful Alchemist, but it is droll and quirky – two qualities I appreciate in a book. It wasn’t perfect, and could have strayed totally into twee, but just about managed hold on until near the end.
      I can totally understand anyone not wanting to read it though!

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