An unabashedly romantic book, that can be read many times. The construction of the story (moving back and forth between the two separate lives of the hero) is jarring at first, but supremely effective.
If you don't know the plot (and haven't seen the wonderful film with Greer Garson and Ronald Colman), the last page holds a special thrill for you.
This is a book for people who love The Time Traveler's Wife and books like it.
A war story..... a love story..... a mystery..... Something for everyone.
It wasnt until just recently that I came across a hard copy of "Random Harvest." Until then, my sole experience with the story was the 1942 movie with Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson in the lead roles. I first saw the movie decades ago and it has always been one of my favorites. Coleman also acted in the 1937 filming of Lost Horizon, and I do not think any actor since then has done a better job. Oh, to have a voice like Ronald Coleman. I would fighting the ladies off with a stick!
For you mystery fans, in the book the solution to the mystery is not revealed until the very last paragraph, so please do not peek. Meanwhile, the movie reveals the solution to you earlier, due to the nature of the mystery. However, I believe this may be one of those random cases where the movie is better than the book. The screen writers did an fantastic job making the slow revealing of the solution to the movies mystery as dramatic as the solution itself. In fact, in the last ten minutes the movie grabs you and doesnt let go. Although the movie is not widely known today, I often advise male friends to watch this movie with their girlfriends or wives. It is one of the great chick flicks of all time.
While the movie starts the action in 11 November 1918, and continues it chronologically, the book begins its story in November 1937 and jumps back and forth. Hilton wrote a number of his books with flashbacks to previous years. This is very effective in the book version of "Random Harvest," although, in some places, you have to take note of where you are in the heros life.
Our hero, Charles Rainier, is a very successful man. His career in business and politics has made him a revered household name in Britain. Yet he is very uneasy in his success, as he feels he is missing something essential, something valuable, something he perhaps loved. You see, Charles is actually missing two years of his life. As he reveals to his male secretary over a period of time in the book, Charles remembers all of his earlier life until he was shell-shocked in France during World War I. Then two years later he awakens in a store in Liverpool, England. How did he get there? The mystery deepens in that British military records have him missing in action, never returning to England.
Charles yearning to know what he did during those two years often affects him deeply. Occasionally, things happen or someone says something that makes a small, cloudy window open in his mind, showing him something or someone that he cant really make out. These incidents make him feel detached from the present and affects his relationship with others, especially with his wife, a former secretary whom he married for business and political purposes.
Charles Rainier is a man split between living the life he now leads and searching for the life he once had for a short time. Charles Rainier is about to rediscover his past. Charles Rainier is in for a shock.
James Hilton is best remembered for his novels "Lost Horizon," "Prisoner of Zenda" and "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," which were made into movies numerous times. However he wrote over a dozen others, many of which also deserve to be remembered.
For you war fans, Coleman accurately portrays a wounded soldier earlier in the film because he served in the London Scottish Regiment during World War I. He was seriously wounded at the battle of Messines in October 1914, and was invalided out of service.