Fabulous Fiction Firsts #233

It's that time of year again and time for small gems.

Most appropriate to ring in the new year is François Lelord's Hector and the Search for Happiness, a charming parable about modern life.

Young psychiatist Hector travels the world over while keeping a list of observations about the people he meets, hoping to find the secret to happiness. At once entertaining and empowering, it combines the winsome appeal of The Little Prince with the inspiring philosophy of The Alchemist.

A former postdoc at UCLA, Francois Lelord is a psychiatrist who has worked in Paris, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. Hector and the Search for Happiness is his first novel, and the first in a series that includes Hector and the Search for Love and Hector and the Meaning of Time.

Brief and yet powerful, the 2008 winner of the Zerilli-Marimò Prize for Italian Fiction, Milena Agus' debut novel (her first to be translated into English) From the Land of the Moon* * chronicles the life and fortunes of a Sardinian woman as she struggles mightily to find happiness in the traditional island village she calls home.

"Agus' beautifully written tale allows room for a lovely ambiguity. The vivid descriptions of the Sardinian landscape are a fitting complement to the heroine's conflicted heart". A lush, haunting portrait of an artist born before her time.

* * = starred reviews