This is a very easy book to read and I read it straight through in one go. Hector is a psychiatrist who realises that he can’t help people who are unhappy, so he travels around the world to find out the secret of happiness – what makes people happy or sad. Described on the back cover as a ‘modern fable’ I think that is the best way to think about Hector and the Search for Happiness by FranÃ§ois Lelord, translated by Lorenzo Garcia.
A fable, according to one definition in the dictionary is a tale in literary form, not necessarily probable in its incidents, intended to instruct or amuse and this is most definitely a story intended to instruct, complete with short maxims called Lessons, which Hector jots down in his little notebook. But really I found there was nothing there I didn’t already know, things like ‘Making comparisons can spoil your happiness’. It’s simplistic and ‘nice’ in a sort of sit down and I’ll tell you a story sort of way, beginning:
Once upon a time there was a young psychiatrist called Hector who was not very satisfied with himself. (page 1)
But it’s really a self-help book rather than a novel.
FranÃ§ois Lelord is indeed a writer of self-help books and he has also written non fiction psychology guides to daily life, after a career as a psychiatrist in France and the USA. At the end of the book there is a Question and Answer section in which Lelord explains that he feels that emotional subjects such as happiness and love ‘can’t just be carved up into chapters, rules and lessons’ and by writing this as a fable he hopes to make it more personal. Actually I found this part of the book better than the fable. Each to his own.
My copy was kindly supplied by the publishers, Gallic Books.