Sunday, October 5, 2014

Book Review: Francois Lelord's Hector and the Search for Happiness

I discovered Hector and the Search for Happiness  upon viewing the theatrical trail for the now recently released film when I went to see an independent movie over the summer. The book itself is rather simple—something clean, pleasant, and almost antiseptic. Francois Lelord scripts a journey in which Hector, seemingly disaffected by life as a psychiatrist within traditional western society, ventures out and explores the world in search of well, happiness. The text has pace, but beyond the idea of happiness: finding it, understanding it, and questioning it, the plot is almost nonexistent. Thus, it is part self-help, part mysticism, and part social commentary, all rolled up into the premise of a novel (and now a successful series of them). The novel is successful, but not through tension, but the journey itself (think Walter Mitty but toned down).

Written with prose that is clean and simplistic, the text takes you around the world, landing in China, Africa, and what one assumes the United States, all in an effort for hector to grasp and understand the secrets of society and man. Lelord opts for minimalism more often than not, eschewing country names, product names, and even alluding to but not naming sex. Hector strives for happiness and his journeys are the vehicle to get there. In the end, we cannot truly know the answer, but we learn from his journey, we come to understand what life is and what it could mean to many, if not just ourselves. Such a fact makes the time spent reading the text and subsequently the film adaptation, more than worth it.

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