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Hector and the Search for Happiness Paperback – August 31, 2010
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Following on the success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and already a worldwide sensation, Hector and the Search for Happiness finally comes to America, where readers will delight in its uplifting humor. As Hector travels from Paris to China to the United States, he keeps a list of observations about the people he meets, hoping to find the secret to happiness. Combining the winsome appeal of The Little Prince with the inspiring philosophy of The Alchemist, Hector's journey around the world and into the human soul is entertaining, empowering, and smile inducing-as winning in its optimism as it is powerful in its insight and reassuring in its simplicity.
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What I liked: It asked some "big" questions in simple terms. Hector was realistic in his thought processes. He wasn't entirely likable, but no one is if you see all of their flaws.
What I didn't like: Very simplistic. I know that was the point, but I thought it would be take a more in depth look at philosophy. That was my hope, at least. It also spoke of all his travels as "far away lands." I'm assuming this was so all the places were more relate-able and so as not to offend any particular country. It seemed a little ridiculous in some parts, though. You could obviously tell when he was talking about Africa or China. Not simply saying it out loud irritated me a little. Hector was written to be the "every man," but that's a lot to try to fit into just one character. I would have liked to see more development in the other characters, though I know that was not the point.
I will be reading Hector and the Secrets of Love: A Novel at some point, though. I'm hoping it's at least as good as this one.
Book came damaged. Listed as used very good, but it used good. The cover, front and back is dirty, had to clean it, pages are yellowed, pages are damaged at corners, spine has been bashed in.
This book has a simple, whimsical format, as if it's a kids' story book, and even begins with 'Once upon a time.' The hero is written to come across as part shrewd intellectual and part innocent little boy. There are frequent asides in parentheses, such as (Hector was intelligent but not necessarily smart). Without mentioning specific philosophies, nationalities and religions, these are often plain through the context.
Hector jots impressions in a notebook. He learns that you must be careful when you ask people directly whether or not they're happy, because it often makes men laugh and women cry. He meets several people, including a monk in a Chinese monastery, who wonders why so many westerners are interested in his religion when they have so many old and perfectly good religions of their own. Toward the end, Hector's findings are summed up by a well-known happiness specialist in 'the country with the most psychiatrists', who tells Hector that during his travels, he managed to discover several of the most popular indicators, and then attempts to them put them together in a formula.
Although it's an easy-to-read companion to all the non-fiction happiness texts out there, I quickly grew tired of Hector's womanising tendency, and the way it's portrayed indulgently as his funny little weakness. He cheats on his long-time partner, Clara, repeatedly during his travels and doesn't stop to consider that his 'if it feels good, do it' habit may bring the opposite of happiness to others as well as himself. That's not the habit of a nice guy. It was written as if he's a little boy who wants to sample different sweets, while he's messing with people's lives. I think it was trying to be a bit too cute, and came off superficial.
Surely those parable-cum-novels have to be really carefully crafted to work. This is just another one with main themes being poked in our faces every minute, and not always tastefully. In spite of what the blurb says, I didn't think it was much like 'The Little Prince' or 'The Alchemist' at all.