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I first read this book when I was in my teens, and I continue to read a copy at least once every 5 or 10 years. Part of me connects with the protagonist's desire to get away from it all, and I feel the magic that's Shangrila wash over me every time I reread it. As I get older, as my tastes and desires mature, as my goals change to reflect my changing lifestyle, the book affects me differently, but with no less intensity. The magic is always there, and my imagination is given free reign to again fly up into the mountains...
Hilton's novel still has the power to take you away to a land frozen in time. Knowing the 'secret' as you read still doesn't diminish its impact, but I'm jealous of those readers in 1933 who had the advantage of mystery as they read on. As in his other well-received novel Random harvest, readers don't learn the twist until the last page. The movie based on it is also wonderful, and well cast.
"Welcome to Shangri-La high in the distant reaches of the Tibetan mountains where a group of worldly men and women have stumbled upon a land ofmystery and matchless beauty, where life is lived in tranquil wonder, beyond the grasp of a doomed world. And a great secret is kept hidden."
A Masterpiece, November 28, 2001
Reviewer: Gary F. Taylor "GFT" (Biloxi, MS USA)
The story of a group of people who survive an airplane crash in Tibet and find shelter at a mysterious monastery is extremely well known, but unlike most novels, Lost Horizon is less about its characters and their situation--interesting though those elements may be--than it is about their thoughts and ideas. Written as it was on eve of World War II, these thoughts and ideas center upon developing a way of life that preserves, rather than destroys, that which is finest in both humanity and the world in general.
The novel is elegantly and simply written and possesses tremendous atmosphere. Although enjoyable as a purely "fun" read, it is also thought provoking, and the thoughts it provokes linger long after the book is laid aside. I can not imagine any one not being moved by the book, both emotionally and intellectually, regardless of their background or interests. If such a person exists, I do not think I would care to meet them.
Although James Hilton wrote a number of worthy novels, Lost Horizon is the novel for which he is best remembered, a great popular success when first published and a genuine masterpiece of 20th Century literature.
This book was originally written in the '30s by James Hilton and began a real-world frenzy to find the true "Shangri-La" (word coined by the author in this novel.)
It is a great adventure with an impressive yet simple writing style. The landscap descriptions can get long-winded at times, but re-read them and you see the beauty of the writing as well as the Himalayas.
I have to reread this every five or ten years, each time haunted again by the mystery, the intellectual journey, and a tale well told. James Hilton wrote the novel in 1933, and Frank Capra directed the movie in 1937: same name, plot adapted only somewhat, and also worthy of a return journey every few years. Hilton also wrote, by the way, "Good Bye, Mr. Chips" (1934), which was successfully adapted to the big screen in 1939; and in which Robert Donat received the Oscar for his starring role.