Hector and the Search for Happiness

François Lelord, trans. from the French by Lorenza Garcia, Penguin, $14 paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-14-311839-8
This trite debut follows a psychiatrist named Hector as he attempts to understand "what made people happy." At a crossroads professionally and personally, Hector resolves to take a trip, first landing in China, where he reconnects with an old friend and encounters Ying Li, with whom he spends a night. He also meets an old monk who offers a bit of happiness-related wisdom. Having suffered disappointment in his relations with Ying Li, Hector next heads to Africa, where he makes the acquaintance of a drug lord with a depressed wife, is kidnapped, and learns that "it's harder to be happy in a country run by bad people." Next up is the "big country where there were more psychiatrists than anywhere else in the world" and a meeting with a professor of "Happiness Studies." Lelord, a psychiatrist, writes in the simple prose you'd find in a children's book, and this stylistic choice quickly becomes irredeemably grating. Though the book is an international bestseller, it is far less a novel than a maudlin self-help guide that substitutes pat aphorisms for development. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/05/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
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Compact Disc - 978-1-61573-107-7
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