Are you pursuing love, and running out of ideas? Or are you in love and wondering how to make it last? Or – having had one too many negative experiences – are you feeling disillusioned with all things romantic and wondering why any of us bother? Whatever your situation, François Lelord’s Hector and the Secrets of Love might hold the answer to your predicament.
As an English translation of an originally French text, it must be said that the novel lacks a certain je ne sais quoi: the dialogue is stilted and rather like the contents of the speech bubbles in Herge’s Tintin (minus Snowy the dog, naturally). Despite its amorous topic, the book lacks any real passion – but once again I suspect this was lost in translation rather than anything else. ‘It was a lover’s note,’ says Hector woodenly at one stage. ‘’Chester and Rosalun were here and their love will last forever’.’ Be still my beating heart!
This aside, the novel has been generally well-received, with Cosmopolitan declaring that even ‘the most detached reader will be won over’ by it. The predecessor in the ‘Hector’s Journeys’ series, Hector and the Search for Happiness, achieved international acclaim, and the ‘coming soon’ third installment, Hector Finds Time, promises to be as successful.
So what exactly is Hector and the Secrets of Love about? Hector, the bespectacled dweeb on the novel’s front cover, is trying to find Professor Cormorant, who has disappeared overseas with the secret of a modern-day love potion. Meanwhile, Hector’s relationship with his girlfriend Clara is looking decidedly rocky, and in his pursuit to track down Prof C he meets the sultry Vayla, ‘forcing our hero to think deeply about the human heart’.
A lot of Hector’s – sometimes convoluted – theorising comes straight from Lelord’s own revelations. Hector, ‘the intrepid psychiatrist’ is arguably based on Lelord himself who, before turning to writing, was well-respected in the psychiatric field.
Each chapter comes with a handy title, e.g, ‘Hector is a Good Doctor’ (if he says so himself), and they are short enough to hold the reader’s attention. Hector is compiling the five components that make love love, and along the way he jots down pious-sounding ‘seedlings’ about his discoveries (seedling no. 27: ‘you can only have one love at a time’: who will Hector choose, Clara or Vayla???). The seedling element of the novel gives it a rather irritating Sex and the City-style narrative tone; when I read them, I heard them in the voice of Carrie Bradshaw – worse still was when I heard seedling no. 14 (‘women always like to dream of love even when they are already in love with someone else’) in the voice of the narrator of Larkrise to Candleford.
But feat not, cynics. The book’s lovey-dovey intentions are entwined with snapshops of reality that most of us can recognise from our own relationships. Shortly before deciding that ‘perfect love would be never having arguments’ (seedling no. 1, nonetheless), Hector has a big ol’ row with Clara. ‘They carried on bickering and went to bed without speaking to each other or kissing each other good night.’ This leads to Hector deducing seedling no. 2: ‘sometimes we argue most with the people we love the most’.
Which just goes to show, in Lelord’s own words, that ‘love isn’t easy, even for psychiatrists’.
Hector and the Secrets of Love by François Lelord is published by Gallic Books and available to buy online here.