on 10 January 2011
Hector is a young psychiatrist who has noticed that many of his patients have problems with love: too much, not enough, loving the wrong person or loving them in the wrong way. His girlfriend Clara works for a pharmaceutical company with a more venal interest in the subject. Soon Hector finds himself on a mission to the Far East in search of answers to the great conundrum of human (and animal) relationships. He's searching for an eccentric scientist, Professor Cormorant, who has disappeared with a potential solution to the love problem, but Hector finds much more than he expects during his journey.
Reading "Hector and the Secrets of Love" is a wonderful treat, like a mug of hot chocolate while snuggling under a cosy blanket. It's a delightful book which deals lightly but thoughtfully with deep subjects. It is written like a modern fable from which the reader can draw their own moral, and there's a lot of humour which lightens some of the philosophical messages. Hector is a wonderfully warm, attractive character, and as we see virtually all the novel's events through his eyes we identify with him completely. He is so honest about his feelings we can't help but think about what our own reactions would be in similar situations.
While some of the other characters are less three-dimensional than Hector, this does not in any way reduce the power of the book, as it means we can study them almost like scientific specimens to see their reaction to the love they find and lose during the story.
The book is written in short chapters, and I found myself with a case of "just one more" syndrome, meaning that I read it in pretty much one sitting.
The tone and accessibility of the book reminds me of the writing of Alexander McCall Smith, particularly his Isabel Dalhousie novels (which also deal with philosophical issues). McCall Smith's fans would be wise to make the acquaintance of Hector too.
This book is the second of Hector's adventures, and as soon as I'd finished it I rushed off to get a copy of the first novel "Hector and the Search for Happiness". I'm hoping for many more appearances from Hector in the future.
on 30 January 2011
Ok, I admit it! When I first started reading, I thought that I wouldn't finish this book. It took me a few pages to get used to the unusual style (which reminded me of childrens' literature, due to the simple, short sentences and equally short chapters). However, after a few pages I quickly became hooked. In fact, the simple style was actually perfect for bedtime reading, as were the very short chapters.
So, the plot......Hector the psychiatrist heads off on a mission to discover the answer to the eternally baffling question - what is love?. He meets various people along the way and there are a few twists in the plot, which keep the reader guessing. He is searching for the elusive Professor Cormorant, who has diasppeared with the secret love potion, which must be recovered. Hector has left behind his rather tumultuous relationship with his long term partner, Clara, which means that the mission is also about Hector discovering his own thoughts and feelings regarding Clara.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book, as it certainly gives the reader food for thought, not just on love, but relationships and humanity in general. At times, the characters (other than Hector) can be a little one dimensional, but generally speaking, this is a thought provoking novel which certainly deserves to be read. So, if you're looking for something a little different, which gently makes you think and isn't the usual boy meets girl love story, then this is the book for you!
on 29 January 2011
Are you bored of reading the same-old, same-old, love story? Stories that have different characters in different countries but plots more-or-less the same? Yawn, yawn. If you're looking for an in-depth love adventure with unforgettable characters then this is not the story for you. However, if you ARE looking for a creative and inventive take on the age old emotion of love then read this book and you will not be disappointed with the journey you will take.
My honesty compels me to admit that I thought, at first, that reading this book might be a waste of my time. What I wasn't doing though was thinking out-of-the-box and being open to a different perception on a love story. I actually found it a refreshing change to read a light-hearted novel about an emotion that inspires and uplifts as well as destroys and rips apart. Despite it's tongue-in-cheek humour, there are plenty of insights through Hector writing in his notebook and his `Seedlings'. I particularly like the way his Seedlings are linked into his own experiences and then pondered on briefly. I also absolutely loved the balance of the negative and positive. The cross-cultural insights can only make you think about humanity as a whole and how universal love is and finally the moral dilemma that Hectors handles so beautifully .............................
If you've ever been open to life and love (which I think all of us have) you will readily identify with the journey Hector takes. The insights and experiences validate how we have all felt at some point, so reading this may make you feel a lot better in knowing that you are not alone on the emotional roller-coaster.
Of course, it's possible to see this book in two opposite lights - a humorous approach to the heart-rending things humanity is capable of - or the glossing over of those things. There is already enough negativity in the world, welcome to a book that brings back a little lightness. Read it for an alternative view.
on 10 February 2012
I was looking for a nice uplfiting, easy-read book at the time and this fits the bill perfectly. Passed it on to my wife and she loved it too. Only takes two or three hours to read, wonderfully naive , very enjoyable.
This is François Lelord's second novel about Dr Hector, like the author, a French psychiatrist. The English translation is by Lorenza Garcia who keeps the story, which is rather slight, bowling along. Hector has been employed by Gunther (`the Downsizer'), a senior executive in a multinational pharmaceutical company, to track down Professor Chester Cormorant, a scientist, who has been contracted to develop a pill that will induce deep desire and ensure close attachment.
Just when there are some positive results from the research, some of which have come from his self-experimentation, Cormorant has disappeared with the data and the composition of the drug. Since Hector has met the scientist and respects him, he is the obvious person to track him down, bring back the results so that society and big business can both benefit .
Hector follows Cormorant to Cambodia, leaving behind his girlfriend, Clara, who also works for Gunther. At one time Hector was unsure whether or not to marry Clara, but now it is she who has the doubts and has started an affair with Gunther. Hector decides to try out the drug on himself and a Cambodian hotel masseuse, Vayla, and it shows positive results. Gunther and Clara decide that they should keep closer tabs on Hector and so they take a flight to Shanghai where Hector and Vayla have been led by an increasingly nervous Cormorant.
Hector thinks he loves Clara and then changes his mind, it is Vayla that he loves....or does he? In order to understand his confused feeling better, he notes down a series of `Seedlings', aphorisms that reflect love's joys and pains, by the end he has thought of 27 of these. He gives rather more attention to the `Five components of heartache', the focus of his next publication. Hector worries that his feelings for Vayla may be due to the drug that he has taken; the only way to find out will be to take the antidote that he hopes Dr Cormorant has synthesised.
I have to declare an interest in that my skills as a chemist may be needed one day by a multinational pharmaceutical company to manipulate the composition of Dr Cormorant's current elixir to enhance its potency. I would also be available to assist with the experiment where `dozens of little mice were copulating furiously. They looked like some sort of vibrating fur carpet'.
In Cambodia, Hector and Vayla meet the mysterious Jean-Marcel, supposedly a sales representative, and two young Japanese tourists. The action continues with the pills being tested on laboratory animals, pandas (with results that were not quite expected) and to a forested region where the experiments involve a pair of wild orang-utans, Pelléas and Mélisande. By the end of the book, almost everyone ends up among the Gna-Doas, a lost Tibetan tribe from the Southeast Asian jungle. The results of Cormorant's research may have much wider applicability than he, or anyone realises, which is often the case.
Lelord, in translation, has a wry, ironic style that ensures a rapid read. The chapters are short and the book can either be read at a sitting or as/when time allows. It is only when the book is put down that the issues that the author has touched on can be considered and reflected upon, and this is not just his Seedlings, 'In love, if we really knew what the other person was saying maybe we wouldn't understand them at all'. 'Sometimes we argue most with the people we love the most' and, for Hector, 'Love isn't easy, even for psychiatrists'.
The author has very cleverly, and successfully, identified a human condition that is universal, even when, as here, the couple involved have very few words in common. As the story progresses, Hector adds his own observations about the nature of life and love, and recognises that both the answer and the outcome will be different for every individual, and every couple.
Rather to my surprise, I found that Lelord was able to keep the story wafting along without sentimentality or mawkishness; most of his Seedlings must have been transplanted from his `successful career as a psychiatrist in the United States and France' but are more satisfying in book form than when presented in return for a fat fee. The characters are very cleverly drawn since nowhere does the author offer a physical description, relying entirely on their statements to create a corporeal impression.
I am not too sure how long the author can keep Hector fresh; the beginning of the third novel `Hector Finds Time' is included at the end of this book. The plot is sufficiently interesting to hold the reader's attention and its obvious limitations this did not detract from the pleasure that it gives. The author was rather brave in including some biochemistry - the roles that neurotransmitters play in love and sex, that dopamine is associated with desire and oxytocin with longer-lasting attachment.
When scientist, Professor Comorant goes missing with an amazing potion that reveals the secrets of love, psychiatrist Hector, embarks on a world wide assignment to track down the professor, and the love potion. On his travels throughout the Far East, Hector encounters some quirky characters, and finds himself in some unusual predicaments.
On the whole I found the book easy to read with likeable characters, and whilst the fable like integrity of the book is quite simplistic, overall there is a fundamental message that we are all searching for love. Hector makes this journey an enjoyable one.
on 13 August 2011
Found this book a little disappointing after thoroughly enjoying and being delighted by 'Hector and the search for happiness.' It is written in a similar naieve style but for me didn't have the substance and insight of the previous book. Overall I found the storyline a bit contrived and predictable.
It's easy to read but not compelling or memorable enough for me to rate it higher.
on 9 May 2014
This book has been my on my phone for 6 months or so. It has been there for me to dip into on the tube or when I can't sleep. I'm glad I used it that way, as Hector is such a delightful, thoughtful man who ponders on the same predicaments as I have, yet he is far more eloquent and succinct in categorising them. I could have read this book in a day, it is that enjoyable, but reading it slowly has given me time to think about what has been written. I feel I have a greater understanding of myself in Love thanks to Hector and of course Lelord.
on 1 June 2014
This series of books that comprise the journeys of Hector, a psychiatrist, reveal in a simple way the basics of happiness, love and, after all, life. It is a naive way of approaching the subject, but that's precisely what makes it original and interesting, since the main character only sees the plain truth without the prejudice society makes us have.
on 5 May 2012
I have to say I did not really enjoy this book. I found it rather silly,and the whole concept of love potions not particularly agreeable. It was neither a true childs tale or an adult story adapted to a childs type of writing.The humour I did not find very funny. One never likes to criticise books, as authors have expanded a great deal of energy and time into producing the end product, but for me personally the idea did not really work. Although I did finish the book in the end it did become a labour of love.I do not think I will read any more ofLelord's work, though I must admit the idea of giving an insight into the world of a psychologist does seem a quaint and novel idea,and I feel should have, and cvould have delivered more.