James Hilton's “Lost Horizons” tells the story of a random group of characters who become stranded in a strange lamasery. Located among the Himalayan Mountains, this place called Shangri-la seems to have strange effects on anyone who resides within the valley (Zurich). These individuals, their reactions and this new utopia are the basis for a story that raises the question if given the chance, who would choose to live in a place like Shangri-la?
The book is written as a story within a story. It begins by explaining how the tale of Shangri-La became known. During a dinner between three old friends, a neurologist, a secretary named Wyland and a novelist named Rutherford, the tale of Hugh Conway and Shangri-la become the topic of conversation. Rutherford reveals that he met Conway after the time spent at Shangri-la and had written down what he knew of the story. He then gives his manuscript to the neurologist, who becomes the unnamed narrator.
The story centers around Hugh Conway, a British diplomat and WWI veteran. Conway, along with his assistant Mallinson, is forced to evacuate from India due to an impending war. Conway and Mallinson board a plane they believe will take them to Peshawar. The plane also carries a British missionary named Miss. Brinklow and an American named Barnard.
Several hours after leaving India they realize that the plane has been hijacked and the pilot refuses to tell them where they are going or why. It is only after the plane crashes somewhere in what they guess is Tibet that the pilot finally speaks, instructing the group to find Shangri-la. After a night spent on the plane, a party from the lamasery leads the stranded group through the mountains...
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...would be the sole deciding factor in the end. Those who identify with Conway's academic, Miss Brinklow's orthodox, or Bryant's intentions for personal gain, would most likely fair well in a place like Shangri-La. For those who are more like Mallinson, and prefer personal freedom over isolated restrain, would certainly abandon a utopia and rejoin the modern world.
Stableford, Brian. “James Hilton: Overview.” Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 May 2011.
Stewart, Jule. "Lost Horizon." Geographical (Campion Interactive Publishing) 77.7 (2005): 88. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Web. 2 May 2011.
Zurich, David. "Shangri La on the Edge of Tibet." American Geographical Society's Focus on Geography 52.2 (2009): 14-22. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Web. 2 May 2011.
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