A few years ago I got my hands on a novel by Francois Lelord, a short, breezy little story about a man and his search for happiness (thus the very straightforward name). I'll be honest, I kind of forgot about it. Then, this morning I caught a glimpse of the trailer for the movie starring Simon Pegg and I started to remember it. I guess I remembered it differently, because I thought that I really liked this and then I found my review I wrote for it back after I read it and apparently I found it rather vapid.
This is what I wrote:
For a novel that totes such a weighty prose, ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’ doesn’t really seem to say much, which serves as its biggest detractor. In fact, when putting the book down for the last time I didn’t seem fazed or changed or moved in the least bit, and this is supposed to be a novel about finding the root of all happiness. Instead, the novel feels very anticlimactic, which only dampens the weight of the ‘concept’ presented by Francois Lelord.And yet, there are things about this book that I genuinely adore.The structure to the book is something that will either turn you off or draw you in. I actually found the childlike simplicity of it all rather endearing. Sure, it can seem amateurish and I think in the end it kind of killed the poignancy that Lelord was going for, but as far as creating something that seemed fresh and exciting, he nailed that for me. I think too, in a way, it aided in the nature of happiness (which is more often than not wrapped up in the innocence we lose as we get older) so in a way it was a beautiful compliment to the concept, even if it wound up detracting from its importance (and it did have a tendency to make our protagonist seem a tad dense). It also crafted a very breezy read. This is a very easy book to plow through. Because it is written at such an ‘empty’ pace almost, it flies by, with the action (if you can call it that) never really stopping. The chapters are barely three pages long, and so it makes continuing with your reading a less daunting task than starting a chapter than drags on for twenty-plus pages.Conceptually, I like this book. The basic premise is that of a disillusioned psychiatrist who wants to better understand why people are happy and or unhappy. He himself is unhappy but doesn’t really understand that fact. While his adventures seem to have no real stability or grounded purpose (why does he go where he goes other than that it gives the author room to develop underdeveloped ideas?) it still flows in such a way where it doesn’t really matter. Lelard may fail to fully explain himself or his concept, but saying that the concept isn’t present would be a blind statement. He presents us with something that will at least provoke us into ‘thinking’, even it we’ll wind up with more profound sentiments on our own time.This novel gets the juices flowing so-to-speak.In the end I give this a B. It is far from the book it could have been, but part of me feels that this is exactly the book it set out to be. It is a simplified variation of an intellectual stimulant and it will, without fail, stimulate you.
Watching the trailer, it's rather obvious that they are going for a 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' type vibe here, but I do wonder if that will be a detriment to the film itself. While I loved 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', many didn't and copying the film's style, regardless of the box office result, could be a mistake. That being said, this cast is delicious, and as I mentioned in my review, conceptually this has promise. I wonder how far they are going to stray from the source material, and if they will add the needed connective tissue to string along his adventures. I've liked Pegg for a long time, so a juicy role like this is promising for his career. I'll most certainly see this, and I may even re-read the novel beforehand, since it is such an easy read and will take all of an afternoon to do so.
BTW, here is the trailer: