“Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector who was not very satisfied with himself....”
Hector is very good at treating patients in need of his help. But he can’t do much for those who are simply dissatisfied with life, and that is beginning to depress him. When a patient tells him he looks in need of a vacation, Hector takes a trip around the world to learn what makes people happy—and sad. As he travels from Paris to China to Africa to the United States, he lists his observations about the people he meets. Is there a secret to happiness, and will Hector find it?
Combining the winsome appeal of The Little Prince with the inspiring philosophy of The Alchemist, Hector’s journey ventures around the globe and into the human soul. Lelord’s writing inspires us to consider life’s great questions. Uplifting, empowering, and optimistic, this is a fable for our times and all time.
©2002 Hector and the Search for Happiness © 2002 Éditions Odile Jacob. English translation © 2010 Gallic Books. All rights reserved. Recorded by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. (P)2010 (p) 2010 HighBridge Company
"Intelligently naïve.” (Marie Claire)
This was a fun little read, but I definitely felt that there were some challenges along the way.
First, as a listener, I found it confusing to determine the narrator's country of origin- I assume M. Lelord is a Frenchmen and his protagonist was either coming from Paris or London, though it was difficult to ascertain as the narrator was, I believe, Australian and never dropped his Aussie accent. Part of the charm of this book was clearly intended to be that such details aren't supposed to matter (the lessons are universal), as he never specifically named countries or cities... but as a listener, I couldn't help being distracted as to why he changed the accents of the speakers to reflect their hometown (e.g., giving speakers "from the Land of More" American accents) but I was supposed to believe that an Australian was a European?
Second, this book is written very much in a French style. If you are not accustomed to French writing, you might find this off-putting. French writing tends to trend "simpler" with very concise, almost elementary, sentences carrying great weight. Compounding this writing style, I found that the translation of this book appeared to be done by a French person who is fluent in English, rather than a native English speaker who is fluent in French. The vocabulary is stiflingly limited and there were many times I felt that the translator, unaccustomed to natural English/American semantics/pragmatics, generated very stilted phrases which did not sound natural.
As a result of questionable narrator/translator decisions, the book might appear to be written from the point of view of a more literal/borderline autistic person, which is sharply in contrast to the protagonist's character of a debonair and well-educated psychiatrist. Furthermore, the narrator sounds VERY similar to Dan O'Grady who narrated The Rosie Project (a great read written from the POV of a man with Asperger's) and the writing style follows suit. Therefore, I found myself repeatedly surprised when the protagonist would do something with great social graces or casually seduce a woman to "do the things people in love do."
While this book was clearly intended to be whimsical, I found some of the translator/narrator decisions too distracting to lose myself in the message.
A better story line would have made this book better. I don't feel like I know Hector at all or why he seemed compelled to find and define the pursuit for happiness. The book only stated the obvious and had nothing more to offer. If you are a "glass half empty" type of person you will still be that person at the end of this book.
I enjoy a good history book with a historical setting. I'll probably lean towards on those after this book. I found nothing interesting here.
The narrator did not make or break this book. It wasn't an outstanding performance and the narration didn't anything to liven it up either.
There are many scenes that just felt unbelievable. Any one of them I would cut from the book. Perhaps even start over.
I'm a bit silly about books like this, I actually listened to it twice since it is relatively short and because I thought perhaps I missed something the first time around. Nope, I didn't miss a thing, it was just as boring the second time.
Its good to read, or listen to a good story. Life is so complicated and a good simple story can be a real reliefe. Lets smile.
James reads clearly and his voice is easy on the ears.
Having diner with Hector would be really memorable. The adventures, his lessons and his narrative are really admirable.
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