Random Harvest is unforgettable for all the wrong reasons

James Hilton’s bestseller Random Harvest is memorable only for its total absurdity.

Charles Ranier loses his memory and his dog tags in an explosion in the trenches of World War I.  Repatriated to England, in the excitement of Armistice Day,  Charles walks away from a hospital. A comedienne with an acting troupe befriends him. They marry, becoming  “the Smiths,” since Charles can’t yet remember who he is.

In Liverpool for a job interview, Charles  slips, hits his head, and loses his memory of everything between the battlefield and waking up in Liverpool.

Charles picks up his pre-war life. He runs the family businesses, takes a seat in Parliament, and makes a marriage of convenience with one of his firm’s secretaries — her idea, not his.

As the Germans invade Belgium 18 years later, he remembers the woman he loved before the Liverpool accident. Heedless of present wife and present responsibilities, he  and rushes back to the spot where they first declared their love.

The characters are as absurd as the plot. There’s no reason a crank like Charles Ranier would inspire the devotion Hilton alleges.

If you like this book, you need a knock on the head.

Random Harvest
by James Hilton
Little, Brown
327 pages
1941 #2
My Grade: C-

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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