September Bookclub Review: Lost Horizon

Wednesday 30 September 2015 by

Lost Horizon, James Hilton, Vintage, Book, Reading, #HoBBookclubLost Horizon by James Hilton

Published by Vintage Classics

Flying out of India, a light aircraft is hi-jacked and flown into the high Tibetan Himalayas. The few passengers on board anxiously await their fate, among them Conway, a talented British consul. But on landing they are unexpectedly conducted to a remote valley, a legendary paradise of peace and beauty, known as Shangri-La. Have they been kidnapped? Can they escape? And do they even want to?

From the author of Goodbye Mr Chips, this is the epic adventure story of literature’s most entrancing utopia and one of our most enduring literary mysteries.


I love classic literature. There’s something uncomplicated about it. Lost Horizon is just the same. Written in the 1930s, it tells the story of Conway, and his adventure following the hijacking of his plane. He finds himself in a hidden Tibetan paradise, and the audience to a mysterious lama, who trusts him with a huge secret – and a slightly fantastical story.

Conway is a perfect protagonist for this kind of story – balanced, nuanced, but without the personality to interrupt the narrative. He guides you through the story rather than dragging you – rarely interspersing it with his own thoughts. Instead, you are given a view of the story that it is a heady blend of an eagle’s viewpoint and a close-up.

Shangri-La is a beautiful paradise, but there is something sinister behind it too – the mountain is both majestic and oppressive, much like the story itself. You read it with an increasing feeling of oppression, of something bad happening.

When it does happen, it is unsurprising, but it is unexplained. You fail to understand the reasons for it, and that frustrates you. As does the ending. Don’t get me wrong: the ending is not one of those that leaves you dissatisfied. Almost the opposite: it leaves you feeling that there is more of the story to tell, that the author is holding something back. There is something brilliant about the simplicity of this tale – the poetry of it, but also the vagueness, the sparsity that serves to improve the mystery all over again.

The narrative is a little dated (it was written in the 1930s after all), with archaic language, but it doesn’t feel outdated, or irrelevant. It feels ultimately more relevant because of its philosophy – there is a moral to this tale, and one that you should remember. It is stark and beautiful, like a song. The perfect classic.

What did you think of Lost Horizon?

October’s House of Blog Bookclub is When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord! Tweet your thoughts through the hashtag #HoBBookclub on Twitter or write on the wall on the House of Blog Facebook page.

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1 Comment

  1. Great review of this classic tale. You give the nuances without ruining or revealing too much of the story itself. Last time I read this was actually in India which gave it even more flavour and depth.

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