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Lost Horizon – James Hilton

15 Jan

ShatnerFightFollowing a plane crash, the British consul Conway, his deputy, a missionary and an American financier find themselves in the mysterious snow-capped mountains somewhere in Tibet.  Instructed by the mortally wounded pilot to find the lamasery of Shangri-La, they are both confused and delighted to be greeted with gracious hospitality there, but find themselves virtually imprisoned in the mystical and beautiful place. 

With its luxurious amenities, a vast library and many antique treasures, what is the dark secret at the heart of the apparent utopia of Shangri-La?

You would think I chose to read this book due to the good things people have said about it, you’d be wrong though.   I picked Lost Horizon up for an altogether more tenuous reason, that being that Shangri-La is mentioned in passing Star Trek V, that being the film that William Shatner co-wrote, directed and starred in, in which he has a fight with ‘God’.  I just wanted to mention that in my review and there really is no better excuse to read a book in my opinion.

Very much a book of its time, there is a strong sense of entitlement in the British imperialism and an on the edge of the empire mentality with all its casual racism, not to mention sexism and misogyny.  The group of character also encompasses the usual players of these sorts of books, the brash American, the Unflappable Brit, the prim lady on a mission (being a missionary and all) and the annoying one you just want to slap.

As a group, it is a frictious mix of polar opposites who soon clash over their situation and how best to proceed that gives the book its tension, of which admittedly there isn’t a lot.  There is an uneven amount of character development going on which is a shame but what we do get is enough of a vehicle to help drive the plot along and allows the reader to explore the choices the characters make based on their experiences and outlook on life.  There is plenty of scope also to put ourselves into their situation and muse on what we would do in such a hypothetical situation.

Shangri-La itself is an intriguing place, based on the mythical kingdom of Shambhala which is mentioned in ancient Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist texts, it is a place outside of – or perhaps abandoned by – time.  A new Garden of Eden, hidden from the outside and untouched by war, it’s a place of peace where the cultivation of one’s knowledge, wisdom and self is the most important thing.  There is a darker side to this supposed utopia as one would expect – and let’s be honest hope for – leading the characters too much soul-searching on what to do next.

Without going into specific detail for anything resembling plot spoilers, there is plenty of discussion of a spiritual nature, a look at the philosophies and direction of east vs west on a civilised scale as well as the trade-off between ideals and freedom and what that word really means.  It’s not one of those book some people choose to call ‘life changing’ but it is nevertheless a good exercise in thought and a solid enjoyable way to spend your reading time.

This is a quick read with plenty of quotable passages, as evidenced by the four I chose not to add into this review.  To begin with I was expecting something a lot more action packed, mistakenly I thought this may be in the style of the The Lost World or King Solomon’s Mines and books of that ilk but instead I was treated to a rather more placid affair which concentrates on inner conflicts rather than the more external nature of survival as the above books do.

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40 Comments

Posted by on 15/01/2016 in Fiction, Modern Classics

 

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40 responses to “Lost Horizon – James Hilton

  1. Jill Weatherholt

    15/01/2016 at 13:33

    As always, thanks for a great review, Ste J. I like the cover,it reminds me of the birthday cakes I had as a child.

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    • Ste J

      15/01/2016 at 13:37

      Maybe I should rename the blog Books and Nostalgia instead. I thought I would put one more book review in before trying something different and I do like my fiction with a twist and the ending to this one is quite interesting…he says giving nothing away other than his sometime fondness for using the the third person when speaking about himself.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. Seyi sandra

    15/01/2016 at 14:02

    I think this is a great book. Hopefully, as you’ve mentioned that’s a quick read, I might find time to go through it. Excellent review too!

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      15/01/2016 at 14:08

      Thank you my friend. It isn’t a challenging book prose wise but it is thought provoking and something that I will go back to again, had I not gone in with mistaken preconceptions I think I would have enjoyed this more than I did, which was still a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Seyi sandra

        15/01/2016 at 14:11

        I love books that make me think, it is worth a peek. Have a great weekend!:)

        Liked by 1 person

         
        • Ste J

          15/01/2016 at 14:13

          And you too my friend! I will keep you supplied with thought provoking books.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  3. cricketmuse

    15/01/2016 at 14:17

    The old classic movie has its moments as well.

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    • Ste J

      15/01/2016 at 14:19

      I saw it years ago but since reading this I do fancy giving it a whirl again, if I remember rightly the mountains looked brilliant, beats all the CGI used today.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  4. shadowoperator

    15/01/2016 at 15:10

    Evidently, my exposure to this book was tainted by Hollywood or the like. I never read the book itself, but when I was about 10 or 12, I listened to the full set of my mother’s recorded (vinyl) records of the book.

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    • Ste J

      16/01/2016 at 09:28

      I did omit your spoiler of sorts, it is done better in the book than anything Hollywood can contrive, it is one of those open to interpretation things I found by the end of the book which is much better than a real answer sometimes. There is something I miss about listening to the audio, it was a lot easier before mobile phones and such proliferated the landscape.

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  5. macjam47

    15/01/2016 at 19:59

    Not my usual read, but you make it sound tempting. Your wonderful review convinced me to put this down as a possible read after I get through my current and tumbling TBR.

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    • Ste J

      16/01/2016 at 09:22

      Good luck with getting through your current mass of books, it is nice to have an already prepared new list for when you finish the previous. It’s good to branch out on the reading, hopefully this will intrigue your thought cells.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • macjam47

        16/01/2016 at 12:01

        Thanks Steve. However, if you look at the number of books around my little office., it is clear I won’t live long enough to get through them, and that’s not taking into account my over-loaded Kindle. 🙂

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        • Ste J

          17/01/2016 at 10:58

          I can relate to that! It still feels good to be surrounded by so many great works.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  6. Andrea Stephenson

    15/01/2016 at 22:28

    I haven’t read the book Ste but I did see the film. I don’t remember a lot about it, but perhaps I should read the book to remind myself!

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    • Ste J

      16/01/2016 at 09:19

      The book won’t take you long to read and the film will make an interesting contrast, I’m sure it lacks the depth of the book but it has been so long since I have seen it. The book is always better of course but then again I would say that!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. clarepooley33

    16/01/2016 at 00:13

    Is this the James Hilton who also wrote Goodbye Mr Chips? Lots of stiff upper lip etc? Thank-you for yet another good and amusing review Ste.

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    • Ste J

      16/01/2016 at 09:13

      It is the very same. These days the same book would have had lot of heart rending angst to it one would expect but back in the day that sort of thing didn’t happen of course. It is a good blast from the past and got me to rewatch all the original Star Trek films (because I like to do things properly) so I can’t complain.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • clarepooley33

        16/01/2016 at 23:32

        I like to do things properly too. I find it interesting how one subject/interest can link to another. I could spend all day following up trails!

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  8. Sarah

    16/01/2016 at 12:06

    I loved the film of this – chiseled jaws and clipped accents and yeah, the mountains were awesome! I had no idea it was based on a book. I love your reason for reading it too, if it’s ok with William Shatner then it’s fine by me!

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    • Ste J

      17/01/2016 at 11:00

      I went through a phase of watching lots of random films on the off chance I could relate them vaguely to books so I could do a theme week…perhaps soon I will do something of the sort. Shatner singing Bohemian Rhapsody and Pulp’s Common People made me happy as well.

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  9. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    16/01/2016 at 17:37

    I keep feeling like I’ve already read this book…if I decide to read it, I’ll know immediately 🙂 Excellent review 🙂

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    • Ste J

      17/01/2016 at 11:06

      I am sure the internet can provide you with enough material for you to decide if you have read it before. The next few posts will see forays into something a little different, just to mix it up!

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  10. Liz Dexter

    16/01/2016 at 21:00

    How interesting: these older books do still have a lot of value, don’t they. I hope it isnt your last actual book review, though, reading through your comments above …?

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    • Ste J

      17/01/2016 at 10:57

      Fear not, I have a huge pile of books to review still and have just started my sixth of book of the year so plenty more to come!

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  11. Resa

    17/01/2016 at 21:21

    Internal conflicts work for me! I don’t always demand exterior adventure (though it’s lots of fun)
    What I really like is your reason for reading it. This is because I am a huge Star Trek fan (Original series & movies) As kitsch as some may think today, I find it very profound. Just watched IV – The Voyage Home (again) a few days ago. A powerful message is delivered there-in.
    Sorry I got off topic, but you started it! “lol”

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    • Ste J

      17/01/2016 at 21:30

      It may be off topic but it is on topic somewhere in the world so that’s fine by me. I do enjoy Star Trek films, they still retain their fun elements and are part of the best era of films ever, the 80’s. I prefer the films to the TV series, whereas I found the TNG films didn’t really retain the same style of character. There are so many Hollywood films that have adventure in them that reading the blurb of the book reminded me of that, it is a shame that Hollywood influences my thinking like that…however it also helped medecide to read the book so I can’t complain.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Resa

        17/01/2016 at 21:39

        I can’t complain, either! Keep reading, watching & reading! Have a great upcoming week, Ste J!

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        • Ste J

          17/01/2016 at 21:49

          I shall my friend, I am flying through books and posts recently and aim to keep it up for as long as I can. Have a great week yourself with some wine if at all possible.

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  12. Sherri

    21/01/2016 at 12:28

    Interesting and thought provoking this…and what a colourful cover..

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    • Ste J

      21/01/2016 at 18:17

      The cover reminds me of cakes with way too many E numbers.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Sherri

        22/01/2016 at 12:33

        Haha…yes, I know what you mean!! You would probably glow if you ate a cake like that…

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  13. Liz

    24/01/2016 at 18:46

    Anything with a Trekkie link is fine by me. This sounds v interesting. And I am grateful to Clare P for mentioning Mr Chips also. So that’s two more to add to the pile… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      26/01/2016 at 14:34

      I shall go my best to find some more obscure links that will throw up book reviews, maybe now when choosing a book I will think, what would Picard pick.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Liz

        26/01/2016 at 17:30

        Haha – fantastic! I can’t wait 😀

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  14. anna amundsen

    26/01/2016 at 18:30

    Referring to the first paragraph of this review.. it is a great theme to write about – the reasons to choose a certain book and whether there are better or worst reasons.. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      26/01/2016 at 19:50

      I do prefer to go where my will takes me and strangely space was less of an option with Star Trek than a mythical place from antiquity but then again that could have lead me to Erich von Daniken so it worked out for the best in the end. I like the idea of picking books by ridiculous methods, perhaps I should post a clue next time and see if people can guess the book.

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