Calvert’s Review: Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord

Calvert’s Review: Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois LelordHector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated on 2010
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 165
Format: Paperback
A charming fable about modern life that has touched the hearts of more than two million readers worldwide. Following on the success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and already a worldwide sensation, Hector and the Search for Happiness finally comes to America, where readers will delight in its uplifting humor. As Hector travels from Paris to China to the United States, he keeps a list of observations about the people he meets, hoping to find the secret to happiness. Combining the winsome appeal of The Little Prince with the inspiring philosophy of The Alchemist, Hector's journey around the world and into the human soul is entertaining, empowering, and smile inducing-as winning in its optimism as it is powerful in its insight and reassuring in its simplicity.

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a very unique dichotomy. It covers adult themes like depression and love vs. infatuation vs. obsession, but is written like a children’s book. At first this was cute and quirky and I liked it, but as the story [as it is much closer to a short story than anything else] progressed it seemed out of place. The sentences were very stilted in a See Spot Run sort of way. This exhausts and bores the reader, as Gary Provost exemplifies in his 5 word sentence quote here, it also seemed borderline inappropriate and condescending when Hector encountered such things as prostitutes, drug dealers, and emotionless sex [which was ever so charmingly referred to as ‘doing what people in love do’]. The book is a great example of telling not showing. Francois Lelord makes a great deal out of the fact that Hector truly cares about people and that’s why everyone likes him, but instead of allowing the reader to come to that conclusion through Hector’s actions it is simply stated, several times. In fact, it is often stated, then paired with Lelord completely glossing over conversations and interactions by summarizing them in a sentence. This gave me the impression that Hector didn’t actually listen to anyone he spoke to, and instead just knew how to appear like he listened. I ended up finding Hector self-centered and condescending, instead of innocent and likeable.

The results of the eponymous search for happiness are nothing revolutionary. The same overly simplified ‘life hacks’ one would find on Pinterest: happiness is caring for other people, is not comparing, etc. They are repeated a bit too often over the course of the incredibly tiny book for my liking, but done so in a way that you can skip over and not miss the story.

In the end, I think Hector and the Search for Happiness, along with the rest of Hector’s adventures, are best suited as coffee table or bathroom books. Something to occupy your mind and maybe a little thought provoking, but not particularly engaging. Since they are so short, they are easily finished in an hour or two, making them a decent beach read.

pj - calvert

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