Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord

English translation published by Gallic Books – 2010 (originally published in 2004) – 164 pageshector happiness

Hector is a successful psychiatrist. But next to people with actual disorders, he treats many others who are unhappy without anything in their lives being really wrong. Dissatisfied and unhappy himself that he can’t help those, he sets off on a journey to find out what really makes people happy (and sad). Meeting old friends and making new ones, Hector not only learns about others but also learns some important lessons himself.

The only shadow on my happiness is when I tell myself sometimes as it’s all going well, it can’t last, that one day things won’t be so good.

This book is part of the series Hector’s Journeys with other books in the series being called Hector and the Secrets of Love or Hector and the Search for Lost Time and a bunch more that haven’t been translated into English (available in French and German though).
I usually wouldn’t have picked this book up but I saw it at a charity shop and it seemed familiar to so I got it. Turns out it’s familiar because a movie (with the same title) came out in 2014 starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård and more, directed by Peter Chelsom. Although I haven’t seen the movie, so if you’ve seen it let me know in the comments what you thought about it!

Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.

Psychiatry is such an interesting field but I really don’t like books or movies with psychiatrist in major roles and I’m sorry that this book wasn’t able to prove me wrong. I’m a fan of Simon Pegg so having in mind that he played Hector, book Hector disappointed me alot. Unfortunately he wasn’t likeable at all. He kept talking about beautiful woman and how he can’t look at them when they talk because they are so pretty and then he simply stops listening to them whenever they talk and there were some generally sexists and “old-fashioned” statements made, too (fine, mind you that was first released in 2004 before the new wave of feminism, but boy it’s still the 21st century).

The basic mistake people make is to think that happiness is the goal.

Now, I actually checked a couple times whether this isn’t a children’s book, it isn’t, because the way it was written felt so much like it. The sentence structures were very easy and things kept being repeated how they do for children who only just start reading, and the book kept posing questions that it would answer straight away and it was just so weird. I don’t mind reading children’s book from time to time but this book had none of the charm Dahl books have, for instance.
Oh, and having sex is called “the thing people do when they love each other” which again is wrong on so many points. If it isn’t a children’s book why talk around it like that, and it isn’t mentioned only once but like a lot on Hector’s travels, although he has a girlfriend back home. Also, you can love each other without doing the do and vice versa.

Many people see happiness only in their future.

All in all, there were some nice parts in this book but nothing life-changing. I didn’t enjoy the style, and the characters were all very generic and had no depth (it is a very short book but still no excuse). Now that I look at it it’s obvious to me that I never enjoyed these kind of books so I really don’t even know why I picked this up, oh well.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


My Top 5 Favourite Books by French Authors

my top 5 favourite.

It’s happening! All you guys in Europe, or anyone with a mild interest in football (not the American kind) will know what I’m talking about. Today’s the opening game of the European Football Championship, which is in France. So I thought what better time to choose to talk about some of my favourite books that were originally written in French (but you can read them in English, too!).

5. L’étranger by Albert Camus (The Stranger)
Now, this book my dear people is still and always will be relevant. It is about a guy who doesn’t react to a certain Situation how he is supposed to react or how it would be “socially correct” to react, and so he is condemned.It is so hard to describe what this book did to me, it wasn’t always very fast-paced, but it’s just done something to me. Read it.

4. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince)
Most of you probably know of this children book. It is such a lovely and heart-warming tale. Beautifully written and full of metaphors (the good kind, not the John Green kind). It is about a little boy who leaves his own little planet to visit other planets, where he various encounters, each one teaching him something about human behaviour.

3. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
This one from the tone is a bit similar to my #1. However, the characters are allowed a very short while of happiness. The female Protagonist, Emma, however only manages to be happy and content for a very short while, then she wishes for something else already and believes if only things could be that way then she’d be finally completely happy – but she isn’t. Always chasing after contentment Emma longs for her life to be a bit more like one of the many romance novels she reads, and her husband to be a bit more like the knights in those.

2. Le Malade Imaginaire by Molière (The Imaginary Invalid)
We read this one in French class and most of my classmates really didn’t like but I have to say this is the book that I enjoyed most that I ever had to read in class. It’s somewhat of a comedy about how doctors make profit of people. There’s a lot of sarcasm in there and it is generally a lovely and kind of funny book, in the form of a play.

1. Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola
So, this book you guys. I had to read this one for my final oral exam for French class last year. But I’m so glad I picked this one because I adore this book. Let me tell you, Zola either does not know what happiness is or just doesn’t wish it on anyone, because none of his characters are allowed even a little bit of it. The descriptions are so detailed and create a really sinsister and dark atmosphere and there’s a lot of suffering. It really isn’t much of a summer read, but so good. I wouldn’t stop talking about it for about a month after I finished it. This book has it all, family drama, an unhappy marriage, an affair, run-away plans, jealousy, madness and murder.

Some honorary mentions go out to some books that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, but I suppose (hope) are going to be great:

  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo – one day I’m going to read this monster of a book
  • Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo) – I bought a beautiful version of this book at a second-hand shop last month
  • Candide by Voltaire – I’ve read some of Voltaire’s shorter stuff and I’d love to read one of his proper novels
  • Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours by Jules Verne (Around the World in Eighty Days) – Also bought a beautifully illustrated copy of this a few months back

And if you’re into poetry you might want to have a look at: Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire (Flowers of Evil). It is a collection of 52 (or such) poems of his.

By the way since most of these books were released quiet a while ago you can get the ebooks of most of these for free, for example on ibooks!

These were pretty much all classics so if you’re looking for some modern contemporary then Marc Levy is your guy. I’ve only read one of his books so far but he’s pretty much the male and French Sarah Dessen. He’s released tons of books, here’s a Goodreads page with some of his most popular books. Have a look, if you’re interested.

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your reading list? What are your favourite books by French authors?