I must admit, at first, I was extremely intrigued by this book by François Lelord, especially because it seems to have received so much acclaim. The title, the cover art, the paring down of both subject and fictional devices such as narrative, character development, syntax, etc. all garnered my attention immediately.
I have so enjoyed similar books that break down societal conventions and philosophical notions into more approachable and illustrative narratives. Books such as Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B (all by Daniel Quinn), as well as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, are aligning my shelves and I often pluck them as needed to make sense of this somewhat bizarre existence.
While I did enjoy Hector and the Search for Happiness, something about this book troubled me in a way the aforementioned did not. I kept anticipating the story would go deeper, and realized as the unread pages dwindled, that I would be disappointed.
Sure, the lessons are interesting and succinct to be sure, and if you haven’t previously read this type of fiction, by all means check it out. But for me, it simply wasn’t enough.
I’m also bothered by the characterizations of females throughout the novella. Only two female characters truly seem to have their lives in order, and I don’t mean because they are married with children compared to the others, (but that point alone is an interesting factor). The remaining female characterizations all require a man to rescue them from boredom or their unsavory professions. And only one female seemed to demand more from her partner than a passing affair or an unhappy, although lengthy “understanding.” Not to mention Hector’s misunderstanding of romantic love and disrespect for his long-time partner.
What I will say about this book is that it is a quick and often insightful read with some rather clever and funny sections. If you’re looking for something to enjoy in the park, this is a good bet. And should you disagree with me, I welcome your commentary.
I haven’t given up on François Lelord just yet, and plan to read the second novel featuring Hector’s adventures, Hector and the Secrets of Love: A Novel. Who knows? Maybe what I longed for from this book is continued in the second.