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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Hector and the
Search for Happiness


by
François Lelord


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Hector and the Search for Happiness



Title: Hector and the Search for Happiness
Author: François Lelord
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 164 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Hector and the Search for Happiness - US
Hector and the Search for Happiness - UK
Hector and the Search for Happiness - Canada
Le voyage d'Hector - Canada
Hector and the Search for Happiness - India
Le voyage d'Hector - France
Hectors Reise: oder die Suche nach dem Glück - Deutschland
Il viaggio di Hector o la ricerca della felicità - Italia
  • French title: Le voyage d'Hector ou la recherche du bonheur
  • Translated by Lorenza Garcia

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Our Assessment:

B : relatively harmless ultra-fluff

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 29/4/2010 Adrian Turpin
The Independent . 23/4/2010 Emma Hagestadt


  From the Reviews:
  • "Not so much chicken soup for the soul as chicken popcorn." - Adrian Turpin, Financial Times

  • "Served up as a series of philosophical bonne bouches, Hector's lessons for life may verge on the banale -- make sure to be good to your friends, be loved for who you are, take holidays in the sun -- but their effect is unexpectedly cheering." - Emma Hagestadt, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Hector and the Search for Happiness, written by a psychiatrist, is an account of a young psychiatrist who finds he's dissatisfied because, while he can help many of his patients, he finds he can't make people happy. His quest -- and, as the title suggests, this is a quest tale -- is not to find happiness per se (and for himself), but rather to understand what it is: what make people happy ? To do this he travels to China and Africa and the United States, and his small adventures and experiences teach him a thing or two about human happiness.
       When Hector starts off -- heading to China ("He'd never been there before, and it seemed to him like a good place to think about happiness") -- he brings along a little notebook and starts recording the lessons he learns:

     Lesson no. 1: Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
       He adds to them as he goes along -- and he repeats them as he goes along, listing the same ones repeatedly (so the lessons stick ?).
       Hector asks various people about happiness, and observes them (and himself), finding that even when material comfort is given, happiness is not guaranteed. Though he has a girlfriend back at home he also falls in love with an escort his friend sets him up with in China, and her situation and his feelings for her carry over for the rest of the book. (Infidelity, interestingly, isn't treated like much of a big deal here; if not quite a full embrace of free love, it's certainly not frowned upon here.)
       The adventures are relatively minor: he visits a monk, faces his Chinese lovers' employer, meets a drug dealer in Africa, inadvertently gets kidnapped, has his brain scanned to see how it lights up under different conditions. It's all considerably less exciting than it sounds. Along the way he constantly reassesses what 'happiness' means, realizing how very different it can be in different circumstances. And there's a bit of scientific explanation to go with it.
       "It's not totally stupid, this list of yours", Hector is told; maybe not, but this is pretty simplistic stuff. There is some charm to it, but ultimately there's too much naïveté here. Lelord can't escape his didactic purpose, even as he also tries to write an entertainment; ultimately he falls short in both regards.
       Some of Lelord's quirks -- his circumlocutions, for example, as he refuses to name specific countries or professions (doctors who specialize in bad diseases !) -- give the book an appealingly off-beat feel; it's fairly slight, but one appreciates anything out of the ordinary here.
       Overall, this is a meant-to-be-feel-good text that is almost entirely fluff, the lightest of reading matter that barely scratches at the surface of the subject-matter. True, it's not dry -- but there's only so much to be said for treacly sop.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 July 2010

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Links:

Hector and the Search for Happiness: Reviews: Other books by François Lelord under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French psychiatrist François Lelord was born in 1953.

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© 2010-2011 the complete review

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