Fans of British Writers discussion

Lost Horizon
This topic is about Lost Horizon
19 views
Discussion of Individual Books > The Lost Horizon, by James Hilton

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Werner | 991 comments This will be the thread for posting any and all discussion, comments, questions, etc. regarding James Hilton's 1933 novel The Lost Horizon. This book will be our group's common read this month; but as always, this thread will stay open indefinitely for later posts.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments In response to the prologue discussed by readers on a different thread about Lost Horizon:

The fear of what was happening in Europe and Germany in 1933 pointed to a very frightening and dangerous time ahead. The memory of the devastation of WWI was still relatively fresh in everyone’s mind and no one was eager for the horrors of that war to be revisited. The biological warfare of mustard gas was horrific and a generation of young men had been lost; recovery from that was slow or nonexistent for many. The author saw the harbingers and shared them in the words of those who had a long view of history. Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it, as they say.
I thought the book was wonderful, I didn’t know there was a movie about it as well. I’d quite like to see that.


Rosemarie | 604 comments I have finished two chapters and can see that Mallinson is going to be the troublesome member of the foursome.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments Rosemarie, M. Is quite the high strung lad. He needs to mellow out and go with the flow more than most! I’d recommend meditation retreat, but then you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make him drink.


Oksana | 118 comments I was wondering whether his character was exaggerated because he was portrayed through the eyes of Conway. But then the author hinted from time to time on Conway's affection toward the young man.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments Mallinson really was quite annoying! Had I been a member of the party that landed in Tibet, I would have slapped him up the back side of his head and told him to snap out of it. His mission seemed to be being unhappy and constantly rudely grousing about the situation. He was the one voice of anxiety fomenting constant unrest. Everyone else found something that fascinated them or spoke to them in some way or other except Mallinson. Instead he kept dumping his unhappiness on Conway expecting him to do something for him. Why didn’t he do something for himself since Conway was quite content? It felt like Mallinson was forcing Conway to be his savior which doesn’t make any sense. And for Conway to have affection for Mallinson despite his nagging also seemed to fit into his filling a savior-like role. Mallinson forced his needs and discontent on Conway who seemed to feel he had to help him though out of everyone Mallinson needed a Zen retreat the most.


Rosemarie | 604 comments I agree that Conway was very patient with the annoying Mallinson, maybe due to his laziness. You'd think he would have tried to teach him some manners.
The character Miss Brinklow is very two-dimensional right now, and very narrow-minded as well.
I wonder if Barnard is using a false name, since he didn't seem too concerned about being reported missing in the newspapers.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments You're on the right track!


Rosemarie | 604 comments I think that Conway is the most sympathetic character and it is too bad that he lets himself get influenced by Mallinson.
The question for me is- is Shangri La an important place or is it irrelevant. Shouldn't these people be part of the world instead of observers? They say they are preservers, but it all seems kind of cold-blooded to me.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments That’s an interesting idea about protecting knowledge. At what point is it a good thing and what point is it wrong . I think that they feel the knowledge they have would misused and that they needed to protect it from what they feared the future held. There was something about Shangri-La that was a tad sinister even though nothing sinister happened. I thought it might of been a bit of 1930s Western suspicion of Eastern religion because I couldn’t put my finger on what the weird feeling was.

I know that knowledge is power and is often abused, but a society that is educated has less crime and violence. So where does the line get drawn with knowledge? Is some knowledge only for those are willing to go the extra mile and sacrifice for it?


Rosemarie | 604 comments I could see the Lama's point of preserving culture and knowledge, but not his aloofness from the suffering of real people. Was he trying to justify their privileged existence, or did he have a valid point?
And what is the role of love in their society?


message 12: by Carol (new)

Carol Breslin | 57 comments I think the book was a beautiful fantasy for me to wallow in for the 3 hours it took to read it. It does not have the sophistication such a book written today would have, with the incredible evils that have come into the the world since 1933 when it was written. So many people tried to create utopias in the 1960's, 70's, and I suppose even now there are some. Sadly, they all seem to fail, for various reasons. The dark part of the book for me is the idea that they actually kidnapped the four people who ended up there. And the idea of living for so long. The question is: would I want to live more than 100 years in good health, as they seemed to have? Of course, in 1933, old age was considered 60, and now it is 90. (not sure of exact numbers)


message 13: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 20 comments I have only got a third of the way in - they are at Shangri-La, with baths. I was quite surprised to find that I'd never read it before, and I'm not sure if I've even watched the whole film, though the premise is very familiar.

I'm not sure if Hilton is the first to use the idea of a hidden valley in the Himalayas, mysterious lamas and mystic powers - but Capt W E Johns was surely inspired by it to write Biggles Hits the Trail, first published in 1935, with its own Mountain of Light, giant centrally controlled centipedes, evil Chinese and secret cults. I don't suppose there will be centipedes in Lost Horizon.


message 14: by Carol (new)

Carol Breslin | 57 comments I got the movie after I read the book, and it is really fun to watch. I highly recommend it. I think I saw it years ago, but I did not remember much except the end. The movie is a bit different, but the concept is the same.


Oksana | 118 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I think that Conway is the most sympathetic character and it is too bad that he lets himself get influenced by Mallinson.
The question for me is- is Shangri La an important place or is it irrelevan..."


As far as I understand the High Lama has a gift of clairvoyance and foresees the impending world war. He knows that he cannot prevent this tragedy from happening. Thus, he choses the role of preserver of the knowledge that will help to rebuild the world after the madness is over.


Oksana | 118 comments Sarah wrote: "That’s an interesting idea about protecting knowledge. At what point is it a good thing and what point is it wrong . I think that they feel the knowledge they have would misused and that they neede..."
I don't think they had any particular knowledge held in their possession that the world did not have. All they have accumulated was accessible to anyone in the world. One lama was working on Bronte sisters' literary heritage, another - on music. Did you get a feeling that they were really withholding any knowledge from the outer world?


message 17: by Carol (new)

Carol Breslin | 57 comments I got the impression they were trying to preserve the great art of the ages, such as Shakespeare, Mozart, and Chopin so that when the impending world war came, similar to the dark ages, not all would be lost. When I stop to think about the "dark ages", much learning was lost. It is pretty amazing how culture could revert like that.


Rosemarie | 604 comments That makes a lot of sense, Carol. The isolated situation would more than likely prevent anyone finding them and destroying them.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments Oksana, sorry I can’t cut and paste on my iPhone, your comment about them not really having any knowledge that no one else did got me thinking. I thought that their ability to extend life there would be something that would attract people who would try and exploit it. Whether they were successful or not, wouldn’t matter if they damaged the place and the knowledge stored there. I think that is why they didn’t want people to leave. If the outside got wind of extended life and veins of gold, there would be armies marching on the place.

Everyone, minus M. adjusted so well that I forgot they were kidnapped. I sort of wondered what the hurry was. Why the utter dependence on Conway?


Oksana | 118 comments Sarah, I completely agree that they did not want the outsiders to come and take advantage of their little paradise and consequently, destroy it.
As for the kidnapping, I think the Lama foresaw his own death and wanted to find someone who would be able to take his place. He could not rely only on the people who strayed into the lamasery, hence, he condoned the kidnapping. Maybe, he also foresaw Conway leaving and then finding his way back to the lamasery.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments I would give my eye teeth for some time in that Lamasery right now. I could use a break from the real world! Mallison can take my place and I'll take his!
Oksana, I agree with you, I think he saw it as well. Do you think that Mallison filled any position for the Lamasery or just as a plot element? I wonder if his nagging at Conway made Conway realize his potential to fill the Lama's role making him see that he was to help people and Shangri-La.


message 22: by Oksana (last edited Aug 17, 2018 02:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oksana | 118 comments Sarah wrote: "I would give my eye teeth for some time in that Lamasery right now. I could use a break from the real world! Mallison can take my place and I'll take his!
Oksana, I agree with you, I think he saw ..."


I think the purpose of introducing Charles Mallison in the plot along with Miss Roberta Brinklow and Henry D. Barnard was to critique specific features of the West. For example, on one occasion Mallison is annoyed that the Tibetans are not efficient enough, they are too slow. To which Conway observes that "it did not appear that the Eastern races were abnormally dilatory, but rather that Englishmen and Americans charged about the world in a stand of continual and rather preposterous fever-heat."
Miss Brinklow is a standard issue Christian missionary, ready to save the "savages" whose beliefs do not agree with hers. She exclaims at some point that the natives of the valley are too happy for her taste, and she is eager to change it.


Oksana | 118 comments Sarah wrote: "Oksana, sorry I can’t cut and paste on my iPhone, your comment about them not really having any knowledge that no one else did got me thinking. I thought that their ability to extend life there wou..."
I also noticed that Mallison was always looking to Conway for guidance. His first independent decision was to leave the lamasery but he still could not do it without Conway because he was afraid of heights. So he came back and talked Conway to leave with him.


Rosemarie | 604 comments And we do not find out what happened to Mallinson, do we?


Oksana | 118 comments I assumed he died of whatever affliction Conway had. Conway was brought to the hospital by the ancient woman but there was no mentioning of any other men.


message 26: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 20 comments I found the ending quite appallingly abrupt, after so much faffing around with nothing much happening. The 'escape' was the climax (or so I thought) and it's all dealt with in speculation by Rutherford based on Conway's half-completed account and a rather rushed conversation with the doctor.


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments Yeah, Mallinson’s demise was quite vague. I assumed he was a victim of the elements in the trip out, but the ending didn’t give me all I’d hoped for from it. A few more answers would have been nice. I also wondered why the beautiful Asian love interest didn’t think she would age when she left, she was a bright mind so what was her motivation? It’s also a bit hard to believe that she fell for whinging and whining Mallinson.


message 28: by Werner (last edited Aug 19, 2018 05:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Werner | 991 comments Just as a suggestion, it might be helpful, when commenting, to use "spoiler" tags to mask comments that divulge specific plot points. (Then that part of the comment will only be visible if a reader clicks on it deliberately.) If you don't know how to do that, it's explained at the "some html is okay" link above the comments box. I don't personally necessarily mind knowing plot details before I read a book (with classics, it's often hard not to, and for me the reading experience is more about the journey than the destination), but some people prefer to encounter these as they read. (We don't all read at the same rate or start at the same time, and the thread always remains open for people --who may not have read the book yet, but want to-- to browse.) My apologies for not mentioning that in message 1!


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments Whoops! So sorry! So many of these things aren’t available on iPhone app., but I can at least put a tag at the beginning of the post. Thanks for letting me know Werner. I hope I didn’t ruin anything for you.


Werner | 991 comments Sarah wrote: "I hope I didn’t ruin anything for you."

No, Sarah, you didn't! As the Aussie branch of my family would say, "No worries!" :-)


Werner | 991 comments I finally started on this one over the weekend!


Sarah Booth (boothacus) | 108 comments Enjoy!


Werner | 991 comments Thanks, Sarah! :-)


back to top