Monday, April 30, 2012

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a pretty big title for such a little book. In another writers hands, the subject could be grossly over-written. (Is this a thing? Over-written? I'm going for a book equivalent to over-acted...ridiculously tiresome. I'd love to hear your thoughts.)

In general, I liked it. The writing style was an interesting change from what I normally read - childlike, but not childish. "It was Sunday, but Edouard was at the office because he had to finish a piece of work for the following day. He was going to show a very important man how to carry out a merger, and he wanted to do this ahead of another Edouard from another bank who wanted to show the same very important man how to do the same thing. And this very important man in turn wanted to carry out the merger ahead of another very important many who wanted to do the same thing. Hector had understood that in business everything was always a bit of a race whereas in psychiatry it wasn't really like that, you just had to be careful not to let your patients talk too much, otherwise you'd be late for the next ones, and they wouldn't like it." [page 41]

Also I like lists, and in Hector's quest, as he goes along he simply lists the 23 lessons in happiness he learns. It makes them easy to remember, and I suppose, to put them into practice.

What I don't like, is being reminded that for many men (although in this case it might just be a cultural difference since author Francois Lelord is from France and practices psychiatry there) infidelity is not a big deal, and as long as it doesn't make you feel TOO bad, you should just keep your indiscretions discreet and you can have your cake and it too.
In fact - it is probably the woman's fault if you do. "He [Hector] was also unhappy because he felt bad when he thought of Clara. Of course she would never know what had happened with Ying Li, but even so he felt bad. On the other hand, if Clara had come with him to China, he would never have met Ying Li. When he was with Clara, Hector always behaved himself, and so he wouldn't have gotten up to any mischief with Edouard, and so all of this was partly Clara's fault." [Page 32]  Since the character of Hector was set up to be this intelligent, articulate, caring doctor, I held him up to a higher moral standard and each time one of these references to flagrant faithlessness is made, I can't make what I have come to know about the character make sense with his actions. "Cultural difference" or not, it upsets me that there are no consequences whatsoever to his betrayal. These instances were hard to get past.

For me, happiness and love go hand in hand - so while I technically agree with "Lesson no. 10: Happiness is doing a job you love." [page 94] It is the moments along Hector's journey that link those first two that have really stuck with me. 
"It was when Ying Li came out of the bathroom all happy and then suddenly became sad, when she understood that Hector had just understood.
It was when they had dinner together and Hector sensed that she was intimidated.
It was when she cried in his arms.
It was each time she was moved when she was with him.
Hector had fallen in love with Ying Li's emotions and that was a very profound feeling indeed." [Page 76]

Is that the secret of love? To allow another to fall in love with your emotions? To have emotions worth falling in love with?  Should I look to fall in love with another person's ability to feel or frequency of feeling? I don't know about that, but I do know that being IN-LOVE did not appear on Hector's list of happiness lessons, thank goodness. But I am looking forward to picking up Lelord's second Hector story: Hector and the Secrets of Love - assuming it will be the kind of fast, easy to read in line at the DMV kind of book that Search for Happiness was. I hope too, that in that one, Hector takes another trip around the world, because although the atmosphere and people in the countries he visited were a bit stereotyped - they were treated with kindness, and I felt like I was riding along with him, while an updated version of "It's a small world" played in the background.

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