Lost Horizon: A Novel

Lost Horizon: A Novel

by James Hilton


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James Hilton’s famous utopian adventure novel, and the origin of the mythical sanctuary Shangri-La, receives new life in this beautiful reissue from Harper Perennial. A book that the New Yorker calls “the most artful kind of suspense . . . ingenuity [we] have rarely seen equaled,” Lost Horizon captured the national consciousness when first published in the 1930s, and Frank Capra’s 1937 film adaptation catapulted it to the height of cultural significance. Readers of Mitchell Zuckoff’s harrowing history of a real-life plane crash in Dutch New Guinea, Lost in Shangri-La, as well as fans of novels ranging from The Man Who Would Be King to Seven Years in Tibet to State of Wonder will be fascinated and delighted by this milestone in adventure fiction, the world’s first look at this sanctuary above the clouds. The new Perennial edition also features a bonus essay on Lost Horizon by Don’t Know Much About History author Kenneth C. Davis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062113726
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/03/2012
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 120,656
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)

About the Author

James Hilton was the author of more than twenty novels, including the bestselling Good-bye, Mr. Chips. He was also a screenwriter, with credits including such classic films as Mrs. Miniver, which won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1942, and Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent. Born in England in the year 1900, Hilton emigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. He died in 1954.

Read an Excerpt

Lost Horizon

By Hilton, James


ISBN: 0060594527

Chapter One

During that third week of May the situation in Baskul had become much worse and, on the 20th, Air Force machines arrived by arrangement from Peshawar to evacuate the white residents. These numbered about eighty, and most were safely transported across the mountains in troop-carriers. A few miscellaneous aircraft were also employed, among them being a cabin machine lent by the Maharajah of Chandapore. In this, about 10 A.M., four passengers embarked: Miss Roberta Brinklow, of the Eastern Mission; Henry D. Barnard, an American; Hugh Conway, H.M. Consul; and Captain Charles Mallinson, H.M. Vice-Consul.

These names are as they appeared later in Indian and British newspapers.

Conway was thirty-seven. He had been at Baskul for two years, in a job which now, in the light of events, could be regarded as a persistent backing oft he wrong horse. A stage of his life was finished; in a few weeks' time, or perhaps after a few months' leave in England, he would be sent somewhere else. Tokyo or Teheran, Manila or Muscat; people in his profession never knew what was coming. He had been ten years in the Consular Service, long enough to assess his own chances as shrewdly as he was apt to do those of others. He knew that the plums were not for him; but it was genuinely consoling, and not merely sour grapes, to reflect that he had no taste for plums. He preferred the less formal and more picturesque jobs that were on offer, and as these were often not good ones, it had doubtless seemed to others that he was playing his cards rather badly. Actually, he felt he had played them rather well; he had had a varied and moderately enjoyable decade.

He was tall, deeply bronzed, with brown short cropped hair and slate-blue eyes. He was inclined to look severe and brooding until he laughed, and then (but it happened not so very often) he looked boyish. There was a slight nervous twitch near the left eye which was usually noticeable when he worked too hard or drank too much, and as he had been packing and destroying documents throughout the whole of the day and night preceding the evacuation, the twitch was very conspicuous when he climbed into the aeroplane. He was tired out, and overwhelmingly glad that he had contrived to be sent in the maharajah's luxurious air liner instead of in one of the crowded troop-carriers. He spread himself indulgently in the basket seat as the plane soared aloft. He was the sort of man who, being used to major hardships, expected minor comforts by way of compensation. Cheerfully he might endure the rigors of the road to Samarkand, but from London to Paris he would spend his last tenner on the Golden Arrow.

It was after the flight had lasted more than an hour that Mallinson said he thought the pilot wasn't keeping a straight course. Mallinson sat immediately in front. He was a youngster in his middle twenties, pink-cheeked, intelligent without being intellectual, beset with public school limitations, but also with their excellences. Failure to pass an examination was the chief cause of his being sent to Baskul, where Conway had had six months of his company and had grown to like him.

But Conway did not want to make the effort that an aeroplane conversation demands. He opened his eyes drowsily and replied that whatever the course taken, the pilot presumably knew best.

Half an hour later, when weariness and the drone of the engine had lulled him nearly to sleep, Mallinson disturbed him again. "I say, Conway, I thought Fenner was piloting us?"

"Well, isn't he?"

"The chap turned his head just now and I'll swear it wasn't he."

"It's hard to tell, through that glass panel."

"I'd know Fenner's face anywhere."

"Well, then, it must be some one else. I don't see that it matters."

"But Fenner told me definitely that he was taking this machine."

"They must have changed their minds and given him one of the others."

"Well, who is this man, then?"

"My dear boy, how should I know? You don't suppose I've memorized the face of every flight-lieutenant in the Air Force, do you?"

"I know a good many of them, anyway, but I don't recognize this fellow."

"Then he must belong to the minority whom you don't know." Conway smiled and added: "When we arrive in Peshawar very soon you can make his acquaintance and ask him all about himself."

"At this rate we shan't get to Peshawar at all. The man's right off his course. And I'm not surprised, either -- flying so damned high he can't see where he is."

Conway was not bothering. He was used to air travel, and took things for granted. Besides, there was nothing particular he was eager to do when he got to Peshawar, and no one particular he was eager to see; so it was a matter of complete indifference to him whether the journey took four hours or six. He was unmarried; there would be no tender greetings on arrival. He had friends, and a few of them would probably take him to the club and stand him drinks; it was a pleasant prospect, but not one to sigh for in anticipation.

Nor did he sigh retrospectively, when he viewed the equally pleasant, but not wholly satisfying vista of the past decade. Changeable, fair intervals, becoming rather unsettled; it had been his own meteorological summary during that time, as well as the world's. He thought of Baskul, Pekin, Macao, and other places -- he had moved about pretty often. Remotest of all was Oxford, where he had had a couple of years of donhood after the War, lecturing on Oriental History, breathing dust in sunny libraries, cruising down the High on a push-bicycle. The vision attracted, but did not stir him; there was a sense in which he felt that he was still a part of all that he might have been ...


Excerpted from Lost Horizon by Hilton, James Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Lost Horizon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wars do strange things to those who fight them. The trenches of the First World War have left Conway, James Hilton's most memorable hero, feeling himself old long before his time. When he and three others being evacuated from the British consulate at Baskul find themselves kidnapped - flown to a Tibetan monastery, instead of to safety as they expected - he accepts the situation with an ease that infuriates his hero-worshipping young colleague, Mallinson. Conway takes easily to Shangri-La's life of isolated serenity. When he learns why he and his companions were brought to that remote and secret valley, he's not angry. Instead, he feels so oddly at home that only for love's sake will he leave.... I first read 'Lost Horizon' in Grade 8, and remembered it fondly enough to pick up a copy when it recently crossed my path again. I read everything else by James Hilton that I could find during the years between. Definitely, this book is a fine author's master work. Clear and beautiful prose, haunting themes, and - at the end - a twist that once you've read it seems inevitable. Like Shangri-La, this story is timeless.
HutchMI More than 1 year ago
No violence, explosions, sex, etc. Great to read a book now and then without the fluff. Just a down right good story. I learned about this book as a reference in a Clive Cussler book. I now want to see the movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in my teens. Now at age 51, I found it to be a rich and thoughtful read. We would all do well to pause occasionally to think about our own definition of utopia (shangri la)...and also to consider what is real and what is illusion. Although set in the 1930's, it is remarkably undated.
JKtypist More than 1 year ago
This is a book that carries significant nostalgic ties for me, as it was one I read during my teenage years and really connected with. Rereading it now, I see a few flaws here and there, but the overall mystery and fantasy of Hilton's Tibetan dreamscape still draws you in and holds you all the way through. A must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An incredible book!!! It's not action packed, but it has great insight. Although I tend to be drawn to action/adventure this book really captivated me.
Sharibear More than 1 year ago
I am very happy with the books that Book Bub recommends through Barnes and Noble. Most of them have been very entertaining reads.
thinkingaboutit More than 1 year ago
Ahaa….so nice to read a book that is so thoughtful and unrushed. It captivates at a slow pace just like mysterious Shangri-La in the book. It’s also a pleasure to read words so well put together and a plot that tells too little instead of too much. It leaves you to work out the details and possibilities in your mind. I thought about this book for several days after finishing it which is a real complement as I generally move on to the next one in a matter of hours. Lost Horizon is a book for thoughtful adults that want more than just a good read. Both subtle and complex, I now look forward to reading all of James Hiltons books.
lovesbooksRF More than 1 year ago
"Lost Horizon" has all the elements! When it was REQUIRED READING in high school, I didn't think too much of it, but now that I'm older, it was really, really good. The descriptions were so detailed, the author transported me into Shangri-La.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, suspenseful, beautiful book -- not afraid to be idealistic AND clear-eyed. More complex than might appear at first.
Anonymous 22 days ago
I good story about the possibility of survival.
Mromano on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The work is famous in part because it is the first paperback ever published. It was made also into a popular movie. The name of the retreat, Shangri-la, has become famous as well, synonymous with Utopia. Having said that, the tale is in the adventure genre with a group of people aboard a high-jacked plane, landing in the Himalayas and discovering Shangri-La and its secret. The conflicts that its main character must face make for interesting, but ultimately not entirely memorable reading.
shangrilajh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie in high school (on Elwy Yost's at the Movies) and went in search of the book. I went on to read several of his titles but Lost Horizon has become my favourite book of all time. I have read it three times the last being 30 years ago -time to read it again.
andyray on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written and published in the midst of the Great Depression (1933), this and the movie that followed gave people a chance to relax and enter a world of heavenly delight separated from the reality and hardness of outside problems. Interestingly enough, Hilton has his High Llama predict a world-wide war that would end in destruction of all mankind and the Lamestery called Shangra-la would be the only thing standing (a kind of a Charles Manson thingf, only without the murders and great sex).
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The classic story of Shangra-la, the utopian society. I read this a long time ago but I remember it being a page-turner and enjoying it immensely!
LeslitGS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A missionary, a thief, an intern and a soldier are kidnapped and taken to Shangri-la...sounds kind of like a bad joke, no? Well, it Lost Horizon, it isn't a joke. It's the plot, or at least a base for all that follows therein. Conway is a charismatic man that most everyone recalls after having met hium, but when an old friend stumbles across him in a Chinese hospital, he learns that there is much more to the man's easy nature than meets the eye. He is kidnapped along with the other three and carried high into the Tibetan mountains. After being picked up by a Chinese Llama [no ducks, no llamas, note the capital L], the four find themselves at the llamasery and in a very different world. The choice must be made--stay and grow accustomed to the high altitude and ethereal world of Shangri-la, or leave to reclaim the threads of the old life at the risk of exposre and almost certain death? I am honestly not sure what to do with this book. It is odd on many levels, including the protagonist himself, and the lack of a villain or antagonist. The story is set as a recount of the journey by Conway to a friend [though thankfully in 3rd person] and thusly focuses on internal and eternal experiences and growths. he likes Shangri-la, but is torn in his position because of Mallison [I called him an intern because I'm not entirely sure what he is] practically hero worships the man and is appalled by the place, not trusting its laid back, spiritual ways. Conway likes the slower paced contemplative life as well as the boy, introducing the central conflict as the debate between staying for better or worse and letting Mallison deal in his own way or playing the role in which Mallison has cast him. When I say central, I should really say only, because it isn't the focus of the text. That seems more to be the journey...like a book entirely composed of exposition. But that brings me to another point--the oddity in style and pacing. As the Llama Chang informs the guests, 'Everything in moderation.' It was largely a very plain body of text with brief episodes of description waxing poetic or exposition waxing philosophical. the pace maintained itself to a comfortably thoughtful stroll with only a few laggin gmoments. These two factors are perfect for the book's set up because they suit Conway in his initial reveal. He is a comfortable man who prefers to take his time and think while maintaining the base line of efficiency. One brief and small spoiler--the llamasery grew from a mission founded by a Christian from the west. All in all, though I was not overly wowed, the book put forth some interesting concepts and was well assembled [physically and otherwise, touting the claim of being the first paperback ever published].
EnriqueFreeque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Freddie Mercury once operatically crooned, "Who wants to live forever?" as if the obvious answer to his existential lyrical inquiry -- featured in the film, "Highlander" -- was a resounding "No one". Yeah, maybe so, but I'll bet Freddie never read "Lost Horizon".
defrog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first book ever to be published in paperback form, apparently, and also the story that gave us the concept of Shangri-La as a lost utopia. It¿s actually pretty interesting, pitting the main character¿s desire for such a place to exist against the cold hard logic from his friend that such a place can¿t possibly be real.
Mendoza on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
THis timely tale of Shangri-La is a metaphor for our lost innocence and the end of paradise. I found this novel to be simply written and possessed tremendous atmosphere. It was thought provoking without being in my face.
foof2you on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shangri-La a place where we only wished existed yet if we found it would we desire to stay or leave. James Hilton poses an interesting question in this book. A group of people hijacked to an unbelievable place where everything seems too perfect. A classic read and a nice escape.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found Lost Horizon quite different from what I expected, less of a fantasy and much more of a philosophical look at the world in the early 1930¿s, and most especially the generation that fought, but never quite recovered from World War I. I won¿t get into plot details as most people have a general idea of the storyline and have heard of Shangri-La. What I found fascinating about this book was the internal workings of his main character, Conway. His contemplative acceptance of what is happening, his unspoken wish for a life of simplicity, the general acceptance of this interruption in his life, and then, his sudden decision to aid his young friend in his bid to escape Shangri-La, all kept me glued to the page. I remember the first movie made from this book, and I pictured Ronald Coleman in this part totally.What was lacking in this book was action, the story unfolds in a gentle, meandering way and I never once felt I was reading an adventure story. So, not what I expected, but a read that I enjoyed nevertheless. My only complaint was that I found the ending rather abrupt and felt it left me hanging, wanting more resolution than it offered.
bdickie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another of my all time favorite books. After reading this I went about collecting all of Hilton's books I could find, and have loved them all.
RachelfromSarasota on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somehow I never got around to reading this book before, although I'd seen the black and white film version; which doesn't quite do the book justice.James Hilton's tale of a secluded utopia, locked deep in the trackless mountains of Tibet, is deservedly a classic. The 1920s prose may take some getting used to, but it aptly sets the stage for the story of "Glory" Conway, the pride of his public school generation. Conway lost both his youth and his idealism during the Great War, and this hard won wisdom has left him adrift in a world where the Great Depression and nationalist revolutions have turned the world upside down. A capable and decisive man, he is often forced to take charge of tricky situations when his own inclination is for solitude and the solace of study.Kidnapped and taken to Shangri-La, the hidden Valley of the Blue Moon, Conway discovers that a select group of studious monastics are working to preserve the cultural and philosophical treasures of the world against the coming night of barbarism and horror. Conway himself has been hand-picked as the successor to the incredibly aged monk who planned and built the secret city.Reading the book was a bit like traveling back in time -- a refreshing change from today's world of ceaseless action. Dwelling, even for a brief time, with Conway and the monks in Shangri-La, I experienced the sense of timeless peace that is the hallmark of the secluded sanctuary.The story, though dated in style and purpose is still gripping. Highly recommended.
book-aficionado on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I picked up this book, I knew that it was first published in the 1930s, therefore, I was bracing myself for a verbose, glacially paced story which would have little to offer in terms of a story, and much less of a narrative drive. I must happily admit that I was completely wrong on both counts.'Lost Horizon' is about a group of four Westerners who find themselves in the middle of a civil war in colonial India. A plane which is meant to airlift them out of the war zone, instead ends up skyjacking them into Tibetan mountains. Upon landing , the pilot suffers a heart attack and dies, leaving his motives for the kidnapping unanswered. But before dying, he points them towards a monastery among the snow-peaked mountains that would offer them food and shelter. The group, finding themselves without any supplies and completely exposed to the elements, have no choice but to seek the monastery.The monastery offers them delicious food, comfortable lodging, a well-stocked book and music library, all set against the breath-taking backdrop of the valley of the Blue Moon called Shangri-la. They discover that the monastery has its own life-philosophy of moderation. But, more than a tranquil and leisurely lifestyle, the Lamas of the monastery offer them a life spanning hundreds of years.And when the world would end up in ruins after what seems an inevitable and imminent global war, the monastery at Shangri-la, secluded and hidden from the world among the high Tibetan mountains, safe from the ravages of any war, would serve as a time-capsule, preserving human wisdom and knowledge, and would help rebuild a better, safer, and saner world.The group that finds itself at the monastery comprises of four people: a world-weary, mild-mannered bureaucrat with muted ambition and no ties to the external world who embraces what the monastery has to offer with the eagerness of a man who has finally found his Eden; his younger colleague, impatient and belligerently frustrated with finding himself away from the urban life that he loves, is desperate to get away - he would rather live for a short time but with all the excesses of entertainment his city-slicker's lifestyle has to offer; a middle-aged Christian missionary lady who believes firmly in her fundamentalist outlook and holds in contempt all other life-philosophies; and a rich businessman who lost millions of dollars of his shareholders through some bad decisions and is on the run from the police of several different countries - he is happy to be anywhere but in a prison, and the gold deposits of Shangri-la are a mouth-watering concept for him and his own ticket to finding fortune lost and reclaiming his respect in the eyes of the world.Shangri-la becomes a perfect mirror, in which, when people from very different lifestylses and holding very different world views gaze, rather than their faces we see their true natures reflected, revealing much about our own. The protagonist's (Conway) mild disposition (to the point of being almost cold-blooded, some might argue), his willingness to make the best of whatever situation life throws at him, his innate sense of diplomacy which restrains him from being judgemental towards people holding views very different from his own, and his deep yearning for escaping the rat race of a professional life, made me see glimpses of my own self in these characteristics of his. And I thought that the qualities of his nature described above are much more timely in the present day and age when we live in a world where different and diverse cultures and religions are becoming increasingly intolerant of each other. The novel, breath-taking in its scope, highly engaging through its artful suspense which makes us eager to find out the mysteries of the plot, is full of wisdom, thought-provoking ideas, and keen insights into human nature. An enchantingly fantastical yarn told in prose which sometimes elevates itself to an almost poetic quality, James Hilton's tale of Shang
maggie1944 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very pleasant read. The author does a good job of creating an atmospheric environment. Characters are perhaps a bit flat save the protagonist. Book is written from a narrator POV however the reader feels like its the protagonists POV. Generally, I found it to be an easy read although when I wanted to think about what was the author's intention in regards to philosophy of life there was ample meat to consider. Since I have seen and enjoyed the movie more than once I did "see" the scenery from that cinematic experience which is perhaps unfortunate. The author did provide some lovely descriptions of the setting and should be appreciated on their own.I end up recognizing the book is perhaps a bit "old fashioned" but many readers will find that to be charming. I recommend someone read a few paragraphs in a bookstore or library before deciding to read the book, for real.
snat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For the life of me, I have no idea why anyone dearly loves this book. The narrative is plodding, the characters boring and unsympathetic, and the ending--don't get me started on the ending. This was a book club selection that I was actually excited about since its setting is the mystical Shangri-La. I thought it would be an Indiana Jones-esque action and adventure in an exotic Asian setting. What I got instead was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Boring Tibetans. There's no action; all they do is prattle on about how perfect existence at Shangri-La is (so perfect, in fact, it's painfully boring to read about). The discussions are predictably didactic ("duh, duh, double duh" I thought as each new mystery of life was revealed). I am so glad that I checked this out from the library. Now I can't wait to go check it back in.