Book review: Hector Finds Time, Francois Lelord

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Gallic, £7.99

Alice Wyllie

SOMETIMES warm and fuzzy can be a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of feelgood fun, and who doesn’t enjoy warming one’s cockles with the literary equivalent of your mum’s cottage pie on a damp Sunday afternoon?

Wet and fluffy, on the other hand can be about as depressing as reading The Bell Jar with a hangover. Hector’s Journeys is a hugely popular series of novels by Francois Lelord, a psychiatrist who has utilised his experiences of analysis to muse on various Big Topics. He aims for warm and fuzzy but leaves me cold.

Lelord’s first two novels saw our hero, Hector (also a psychiatrist) take on love and happiness. Now, in Hector Finds Time, the ticking of the big clock of life gets the Philosophy-for-Dummies-meets-the-Care-Bears treatment.

Hector questions the passage of time and the varying effects it has on his patients and the people around him. His journey takes him in search of a Chinese monk via an Inuit shaman, and sees him jotting down various “time exercises” for his patients as he goes: “Time exercise 4: Think of all the people and things you are not paying enough attention to now because one day they will be gone and then it will be too late”.

Knowingly saccharine this novel may be, but it shouldn’t leave the reader in such a sugar slump. So focused is Lelord on his cheery style that he creates a barrier between the reader and the characters. The third person is used aggressively – Hector does this, Hector thinks that – and the many chapters are given titles such as ‘Hector meets an important man’. Hector might as well be a cartoon for all the depth the character is given.

The deliberately childlike language grates almost immediately. Sentences are cutesy and naïve, everything is “nice” or “pretty,” and exclamation marks plague the prose.

The voice I hear as I read is that of a whiny child who should really have grown out of the baby talk by now, reciting a “what I did on my holiday” essay. I feel neither warm nor fuzzy, just a little nauseous. «