jcg's Reviews > Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon by James Hilton
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's review
Aug 30, 09

I first read this book in my early teens and was entranced by it. It's odd to read it again now. It's very much a novel of its time. Shangri-la is the emotional healing place for the horrors of WW1 - but we can't stay in the dreamland, we have to return to normal life, even if we spend the rest of our lives longing to return to the dreamland.

Hilton used the clumsy device of having the story retold by someone who had heard the tale from Conway, the main character - we're supposed to believe that he can remember it word for word in comprehensive detail. This technique covers up the plain workmanlike prose, the lack of description, the vague inconsistencies and puts the story on an intellectual plane rather than developing emotional involvement.

But Hilton tells the story well. He doesn't really give a strong motivation for Conway's change of heart and decision to leave Shangri-la, it's just a spur of the moment thing a complete reversal of his previous commitment.

It's interesting to compare the book to the film version. In the film they added two important characters: a comic character, Lovey, and the young woman with whom Conway falls in love - giving him motivation to stay (and later return).

In the film the character of the nun was replaced by a dying party-girl. The contrary character of Mallinson was replaced with Conway's brother, which gave Conway a much stronger motivation for leaving. The Russian girl (the brother's counterpart) actually says that she hates it in Shangri-la and wants to leave whereas in the book Lo-tsen never speaks.

The movie also made remaining in Shangri-la a matter of personal choice; the book makes it clear that Shangri-la is a prison that no one can leave - the idyllic dreamworld has a dark side and those who venture there must pay the price and surrender their freedom.

The book and the film have very different aims and themes. Hilton certainly created something that captures the imagination.
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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally The brand new group - Bright Young Things - is nominating books to read in January & Lost Horizon is among them. Its the perfect place to discuss your favourite books and authors from the early 20th Century, why not take a look...


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