Hilton’s Lost Horizon dead loss to literature

Lost Horizon‘s only contribution to literature was make Shangri-La synonymous with paradise on earth, thereby providing a name for raunchy bars.

James Hilton’s novel is just plain stupid.


Lost Horizon by James Hilton

William Morrow, 1934. 277 pages. 1935 bestseller # 8. My grade C-.


Cover of Lost Horizon shows Shangri La clinging to mountainsidesHilton presents Lost Horizon as a second-hand tale, a device that’s supposed to relieve the teller of responsibility for veracity. However, the story is so ridiculous, the characters so implausible, that it could be plausible only to British school chums who topped off an old school dinner with plenty of brandy.

The novel is about four people whose plane goes down in the Himalayas: Conway, a British consul; Mallison, his youthful vice-consul; Roberta Brinkow, a missionary; and Henry Barnard, an American fugitive.

Monks take them into Shangri-La, a Tibetan valley where people life very long lives.

The monks pick Conway to become High Llama when the current leader snuffs it. All but Mallison would be content to stay put.

Mallison scorns Conway’s story that Lo-Tsen, the girl he’s fallen for in Shangri-La,  is really an old woman.

Love and duty demand he get back to England.

Conway leads the pair get out.

Does Lo-Tsen really age overnight?

Does Mallison see his folly?

Can Conway ever get back to Shangri-La?

Does anyone outside a raunchy bar know — or care?

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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