There was a rather large amount of buzz of ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’ when it was published back in April (interestingly when I got it out from the library after seeing it advertised in almost every tube station – its only taken me 4 months to read it) and the more I heard about it the less I instantly wanted to read it. You know how it can be; you hear lots about a book you want to read it but maybe not until the chatter dies down a little. The more I did hear though the more I couldn’t work out if it was meant to be a self help book or fiction and that could very much be a make or break with me as you might have seen when I read ‘The Alchemist’.
You can pretty much guess what the premise of Francois Lelord’s novel is going to be from its title ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’. Hector is a rather successful psychiatrist treating both clients in hospitals and people privately. Yet the more and more he works the more he realises there is dissatisfaction in the world and the less her really believes he can help people. So he decides to travel the world in search for what makes people from here there and everywhere happy and see what he can find out.
From the opening line ‘Once upon a time there was a young psychiatrist called Hector…’ I thought this might be some rather marvellous modern fable and fairy tale. As the book continued in the same narrative, rather like you are a child being read to, I began to feel more and more patronised and slightly riled. Lines such as ‘Roger believed that the good lord talked to him constantly, what they call hearing voices’ and ‘the airline had overbooked the part of the plane where Hector was supposed to be sitting, and she was giving him a seat in the part of the plane where you normally had to pay a lot more. That part of the plane is called business class’ had me inwardly groaning and I was getting more and more annoyed. And I haven’t even mentioned the lessons Hector learns along the way yet…
Lesson number 6: Happiness is a long walk in the mountains.
Lesson number 12: It’s harder to be happy in a country run by bad people.
Lesson number 18: Happiness could be the freedom to love more than one woman at the same time.
Lesson number 22: Women care more than men about making others happy.
So why didn’t I just put the book down and walk away? Well ‘over 2 million copies sold worldwide’ was why. I wanted to see what it was that made that many people by it. By the end I admit I was despairing that so many people had bought it or that it had indeed been published, to me it was a positive it was short. I know I am one in a very small minority but then maybe this is a lesson for Hector, lesson number 24: happiness can be being the odd one out of 2 million plus! Too be fair though I did read the whole thing, just with slightly gritted teeth.
A book that will: either enlighten and entertain you or possibly drive you crazy enough to need to see a psychiatrist yourself. 2/10
It’s very, very unlike me to be negative about a book. I think in all honestly being on of the judges of The Green Carnation Prize is going to be of great benefit because I am reading some corkers that have hardly received any attention whilst books like this get pushed into the mainstream and heavily promoted. It irked me. I do feel a bit bad posting this but I am using it to highlight something I think is important. I also don’t think anything I say will stop this being a best seller and good luck to it too. I also know those of you who read this blog are intelligent enough to want to try books out yourselves regardless of my thoughts. There, I feel much better.
Maybe this is the start of a new leaf in Savidge Reads? Or maybe this was a book that just had a profound effect on me that I couldn’t help but post my thoughts no matter how negative they might be or make me seem. I am a very happy person, honest! Who else has read this book? What did you think? What are your thoughts on ‘self help fiction’? What are your thoughts on negative reviews?
(Sorry to Gallic books as you publish some gems it’s not personal it just made me a bit cross when it should have made me happy!)