Hervé Le Tellier – All Happy Families: a memoir – book review

MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org - Hervé Le Tellier - All Happy Families: a memoir - book reviewLe Tellier’s autobiographical book is a dark one. The narrative is interesting, despite the fact that the adverse circumstances of his life as he describes them are by no means extreme by the author’s admission

He aptly quotes Tolstoy:

All happy families are alike.  Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

His story chronicles his personal dysfunctional family that is so devoid of warmth and compassion.

All happy families…or?

Le Tellier examines his life from birth to present day in a cathartic attempt to understand his own predicament.  His formative years were troubled.  It’s been said that pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.  Le Tellier writes of his suffering.  He wasn’t beaten; nor did he go unfed, without shelter, and he didn’t lack education or basic physical needs.

Lovelessness and estrangement tormented him.  His suffering was metaphysical.

From his account there was almost no joy in his life.  He longed to know his father who abandoned him and the stepfather who was a father in name only.  Both died without ever having established a connection to Le Tellier.

His mother, who went mad from dementia, was a constant heartbreak to him.  One cannot help but feel empathy for the author who writes:

I know why I so love laughter, which only ever made its way into our house by breaking and entering.

From sad tale, to tragic ending

The author takes us on a journey that traces a path from one melancholy passage to the next, and peaks in pathos at age 20 when he falls in love with Piette. His dysfunctionality has drawn him to someone suffering from bipolar disorder and manic depression. Her suicide with their unborn child transforms a sad tale into a tragic one.

Le Tellier finds hope and redemption through philosophical introspection in his sixties.

The reader can only hope that Le Tellier succeeded to be the father that he only wished that he had had.


Have you read any of Le Tellier’s work? What about ‘All Happy Families’? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections in the comment section below.

Image credits
1. via Amazon.fr

To Buy: All Happy Families
Translation: Adriana Hunter
Publisher: Other Press

About the Contributor

Chris Culp

I'm a native of the Southern USA with a BA in Philosophy from the University of North Carolina and an MBA in Finance from Tulane University - New Orleans.  I reside with my wife in Brooklyn NY and have 3 grown children. A former ex pat in Tokyo who’s traveled through Asia & Europe, my attraction to France is simply cultural sympatico. Find me: linkedin and facebook

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