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Random Harvest

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  768 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Charles Rainier, a prosperous Briton, loses his memory as a result of shellshock in the First World War.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 1998 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published January 1941)
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Community Reviews

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RANDOM HARVEST is one of the two James Hilton novels I re-read about every five years or so (the other is LOST HORIZON).

It's an engrossing tale of a man who loses his memory due to being shelled in the Great War, eventually finds happiness with a young actress, and then is knocked down on a Liverpool street. He regains consciousness and knows he's a member of a prominent and wealthy family. He begins to reconstruct his life again, knowing all the while that something - and someone - is missing....more
Richda Mcnutt
Reading a book by James Hilton should be accompanied by curling up in your most enveloping chair and having a cup of creamy coffee or tea to sip. His writing is a style that we no longer have in literature - much like Nevil Shute. The setting is between the two World Wars in England. The main character suffers from two amnesias: after being injured in World War I, he recovers in several hospitals, but does not know his name or where he is from; then, after having a fall, he comes to on a Liverpo...more

James Hilton was a mid-twentieth-century English writer of bestselling middlebrow tearjerkers, a bit like Nevil Shute. He is best known today for two books that became blockbuster movies: Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Lost Horizon, which gave the world Shangri-La.

Random Harvest is a typical example of his work. The hero, a reluctant but successful between-the-wars business magnate and politician, is haunted by missing memories: he has lost three whole years. The lacuna commences with his being wounde...more
I am struck afresh by the aptness and loving detail of Hilton's description of autumnal London:

'For London...was of all cities in the world the most autumnal--its mellow brickwork harmonzing with fallen leaves and October sunsets, just as the etched grays of November composed themselves with the light and shade of Portland stone. There was a charm, a deathless charm, about a city whose inhabitants went about muttering, "The nights are drawing in," as if it were a spell to invoke the vast, spawli...more
I think this book is much better than "Good-bye Mr. Chips." Much more interesting and readable, to me. I enjoyed the story and the characters very much. Who wouldn't be intrigued by Charles Ranier? A fun book. (The movie is great, too. Greer Garson. I don't know if you should read the book first or see the movie first. They're a little different, but the movie might help you understand the book? I loved them both.)
Fantastic! I read this for my RS book group, and we all came so excited to talk about it. The problem is that you can't really talk about it unless you've read it, so I can't write much here without giving anything away. And if you plan to read the book, I recommend that you DON'T read the Goodreads summary. The less you know, the better, because following the story as it progresses is part of what make this book so enjoyable.

Here's what I can tell you: this takes place in England between the Wo...more
A mystery, a romance, a history of England between the wars. An utterly spellbinding story of lost identity and lost love.

I should confess I've always had a soft spot for the B&W movie, even though it is ridiculously melodramatic, or maybe because of that, but defintely because it starred the gloriously beautiful Greer Garson who could make a young boy roll up a sock and stuff it in his own mouth to prevent himself from crying with joy every time she appears on screen.

The book is a beautiful...more
Mary Simonsen
I first read this book 30 years ago and again last year. It is a story of love and loyalty after the First World War. The conclusion is one of the best I've ever read.
Loyola University Chicago Libraries
Great premise, disappointing follow-through. I'm very surprised that I didn't like this; other reviews praise it for being engrossing, but I found most of it to be quite dull. Charles Rainier is an English politician and businessman who can't remember a few years of his life due to a WWI head injury. While set at the eve of WWII, most of the book is comprised of flashbacks to Rainier's life, eventually including scenes from his missing years. And, of course, there are women involved -- a cold pr...more
Javier Aviña
Estaba yo iniciando la escuela secundaria y una vez fui al cine a ver "Adiós Mister Chips"; supe luego que era la versión cinematográfica de una obra de James Hilton. Mi maestro de literatura me recomendó leer "En la noche del pasado", título en español de "Random Harvest". Siempre le agradecí la recomendación. Me adentraba yo en la literatura "de adultos" y aquella novela tuvo mucho significado para mí por eso mismo, por ser de las primeras que leí una vez dejado atrás a Verne, Salgari, etc. La...more
Great premise, disappointing follow-through. I'm very surprised that I didn't like this; other reviews praise it for being engrossing, but I found most of it to be quite dull. Charles Rainier is an English politician and businessman who can't remember a few years of his life due to a WWI head injury. While set at the eve of WWII, most of the book is comprised of flashbacks to Rainier's life, eventually including scenes from his missing years. And, of course, there are women involved -- a cold pr...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bree (AnotherLookBook)
A novel about a man who wakes up one day in 1919 and finds he can’t remember anything about the last three years of his life. 1941.

Full review (and other recommendations!) at Another look book

This book delighted me so much, it will probably be one of my favorite reads of 2014. I loved how it was all jumbled out of order, with the mystery of the story--what happened during those forgotten three years?--established from the very beginning. The 1942 movie adaptation puts rather more emphasis on th...more
Shelley Mitchell
Jan 26, 2008 Shelley Mitchell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Shelley by: saw movie first, book is better
this is one i keep reading over and over again. an amnesia story -- who is NOT fascinated with amnesia? if i got amnesia, and was lost somewhere and unidentifiable, what kind of life would i make for myself? how close would it be to the one i lost? what influences a person's choices? who is the real ME? a wonderful story, set in england, between the two world wars, and also a love story.
I absolutely love the movie version of Random Harvest and had actually seen it before I read this book the first time. This is my second time for reading this, and I'm struck by what a good job the screenwriter did of adapting it for the movie. Many things had to be changed about the novel to make it work--for instance, Paula is much more of a mystery to the reader than she is in the movie--but somehow the screenwriter managed to make those changes without harming the underlying spirit of the pi...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Similar to LOST HORIZON which is rcounted by an interested outsider, this novel includes some chapters told in the 3rd person. Shellshocked in 1917 during the Great War Charles Rainier found the doors of his youth slammed shut by his war experiences. Now as a mature and successful married man he seeks clues to his obliterated Past.

Hilton's tortured protagonist defies the world and risks his politcal reputation as an MP--not to mention his very marriage--to rec...more
Like several of the other reviewers I had already seen the movie when I picked up the book. That took away the surprise reveal at the end of the book, of course, but it was interesting to consider the different structures; the book worked backwards chronologically beginning with a successful, married Charles Rainier, while the movie started in the asylum and moved forward from that point.

While I found the film very moving, I didn't get the same emotional impact from the book - again, probably be...more
I had seen Lost Horizon and Goodbye Mr. Chips. To my knowledge the former has only been made into a movie once starring the inestimable Ronald Coleman. The latter has been made into a movie several times, my favorite being the version starring Robert Donat. Recently I saw the movie Random Harvest starring, again, Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson. This peeked my interest in reading the book. Not surprisingly I liked the book and found it a lot more credible than the movie where, because of its fai...more
Aaron Gapasin
(Spoiler Alert):
Beneath the love story and the gripping tale of a man trying to remember a lost part of his life, Random Harvest is an immense commentary and critique of England between the two World Wars. It is no coincidence that this story starts with the characters half-heartedly observing Armistice Day. This of course leads to the discussion of Rainier’s memories of WWI and how disappointing life was after the war, as all participants felt there should have been some sort of “well-deserved...more
Courtney H.
This is another book that I did a disservice to by waiting so long to review it, but I will try. I thought this was a beautiful book, and TARDIS like: its bigger on the inside. It covers more than its story seems to, at first glance; it hides a thoughtfulness and a sadness that runs like a strand through many of Hilton's war-touched books.

Random Harvest appears at first glance to be a mystery and a love story. Through the narration of Charles’ Rainier’s secretary and confidant, it tells Rainier...more
Stevie Henden
I came to read this in 2013 30 years after I first saw the movie, which Is one of my favourite films of all time.

As I started to read the book I found it rather strange, as of course it it structured in a totally different way from the movie, but as I got into it I loved it and and felt drawn through it even though of course I knew the denouement.
I particularly liked the historical perspective taken on the period between the two world wars and I loved the sense of quite how English the book is i...more
Charles Rainier has a rising political career, a beautiful and charming wife, a fine country home, and a successful business, but he is missing something - about 2 years of his life. He was wounded during World War I and received a head injury. From the time of his injury in a trench in Germany to over 2 years later when he 'came to himself' on a park bench in England, he can't remember a thing. This is the story of his life, his romances, and his ultimately successful attempt to figure out who...more
K.M. Weiland
This isn’t quite the sparkling gem that the movie is (thanks largely to the presence of Ronald Colman and Greer Garson), but it does present a more intimate and probably a bit more realistic view of what it would be like to have suffered amnesia. That said, it’s still an absolutely incredible premise (and I admit: I’m definitely prejudiced toward a good amnesia tale), told with heart and empathy. The book suffers a bit from its poor structure and particularly the use of an extraneous narrator. B...more
James Hilton wrote this book--author of Lost Horizon, the book that gave us Shangri la.

This book is fascinating. It is about a high class Englishman who is a Lord. During World War I. He is wounded and has amnesia. He cannot remember who he is or where he is from. He meets a girl Paula who calls him Smithy, for want of a real name. They live a plain, simple, and beautiful life. Then he is hit by a car and remembers who he was, but remembers nothing past his injury during the war. Is he really S...more
After seeing the movie with Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson, I really wanted to read the book. I wasn't disappointed. The movie doesn't exactly follow the book, but I still enjoyed both. The differences gave slightly different perspectives on the same interesting problem. James Hilton also wrote Lost Horizon and Good-bye, Mr. Chips. Loved both these books, as well.
Random Harvest, is one of those rare books in which the movie version(1942 movie with Ronald Colman, Greer Garson) is way way better than the book.

I have read James Hilton's Lost Horizon and really enjoyed it as well as the movie, so I thought, "Heck, I love the Random Harvest movie, so I bet the book is great as well." My first challenge was finding a copy of this book. It wasn't at the library or in an old used book store. However ebay saved the day. Well, when I received the book I excitedly...more
I've had this hardcover edition sitting on my TBR pile for a long time. It looks to be a first edition - published in 1941, but it is not in great condition, at least not the back cover which has had water damage at sometime in it's past.

I've watched the movie version with Ronald Colman for years, so it's time I read the 'real' story. I must say though that when Charles Rainer is described or talks in the book, I see Ronald Colman all the way.

9/11/11 - Just finished this book and while it is sen...more
If you loved the film with Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman, read this book. If you haven't seen the movie yet and like a little romance and mystery set in England between the first and second World War, read this book. Then watch the movie. You'll find that both work quite well together.

There were a few lines that stood out to me in this book that I really liked, but there was especially this one, which oddly enough, didn't even have anything to do with the romance. Rather, it was about the desc...more
It took me a few chapters to get into Random Harvest by James Hilton, but once I did I enjoyed it immensely. Set in post WWI England, it is the story of Charles Rainier who is wounded and loses his memory during the war. I won't give much more away...they just don't write books like this anymore. Very good read.
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James Hilton (1900–1954) was a bestselling English novelist and Academy Award–winning screenwriter. After attending Cambridge University, Hilton worked as a journalist until the success of his novels Lost Horizon (1933) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934) launched his career as a celebrated author. Hilton’s writing is known for its depiction of English life between the two world wars, its celebration of...more
More about James Hilton...
Lost Horizon Good-Bye, Mr. Chips Good Bye Mr. Chips & Other Stories Nothing So Strange Goodbye, Mr. Chips: To You, Mr. Chips

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“Have you ever been going somewhere with a crowd and you're certain it's the wrong road and you tell them, but they won't listen, so you just have to plod along in what you know is the wrong direction till somebody more important gets the same idea?” 44 likes
“There's only one thing more important... and that is, after you've done what you set out to do, to feel that it's been worth doing.” 20 likes
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