The Lost Horizon by James Hilton

Reading The Lost Horizon is a bit like being transported into a grown-up version of a boy’s adventure story. There is a touch of Conrad, a feeling of Greene. It’s all secrets, conspiracies, the aftermath of war and how that impacts upon a person.

Told within the framework of two school friends speaking of another, the narrator tells his friend’s account of Conway’s story. Rutherford met Conway on a ship. Conway had lost his memory but Rutherford’s memory of him reawakens Conway to himself and allows him to tell Rutherford his unusual tale.

Conway was being evacuated from Baskul to Peshwar but his plane was high-jacked and crashed somewhere in the Tibetan mountains. The surviving passengers were met by an old monk who takes them to the hidden valley and monastery of Shangri-la under the beautiful shadow of the Blue Moon Mountain. As their stay at Shangri-la is prolonged, Conway begins to unravel the mystery of this hidden vision of utopia.

I’m not sure if I would embrace the moderate lifestyle of Shangri-la but it is exciting to believe there could be secret places unbound by poverty, hunger and war, carefully maintaining human achievement without the fierce bias of self-defence.

The Lost Horizon is a clear-headed account of human nature and endeavour that combines mystery, ambition and adventure. The handed down nature of the story beautifully conveys the development of myth making The Lost Horizon a great telling of a great story.

Next week I’m reading The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, followed by The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler which has been longlisted for the Man Booker. I look forward to more of your comments and reading suggestions.

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