James Hilton

James Hilton


9/9/1900, Leigh, Lancashire, England



Birth Name

James Hilton


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A highly successful English novelist, James Hilton is best known as the author of 'Lost Horizon', 'Goodbye Mr. Chips' and 'Random Harvest'. Like much of his work, these three novels focus on the experiences of people faced with the events and consequent problems of the twentieth century. Presented…more


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  • Hilton sacrifices believability and character development in favor of a brief novel offering a startling and unique picture of an ideal society.

    Mallinson was a British vice-consul. There is no reason why he could not have been traced after he left Shagri-La, but there is no indication that he was traced. This is only one of many loose ends that were left hanging, and characters that were not developed. From almost the beginning of the book we understand that we are never going to get real information about the society of the lamasery and the village it governed. Although we hear about neat yards in the village and gold deposits, we never talk with even one villager. Many if not most elements of the story seem more related to having a short novel than to making sense. For example, there is no clear reason why Conway left the lamasery with Mallinson and Lo-Tsen. Oh yes, Conway was in love with Lo-Tsen and very attached to Mallinson, but both of these things we are told late in the story, instead of them having developed naturally in the earlier history of the characters. Of course, it is hard to make a story convincing if the characters, as has been said, have no real depth or development. And the fact that Conway's narrative told to a writer ended just as he left the lamisery, also makes it easier to make this a short story. This very sparsity of character development and intelligent detail, however, serves to highlight the dramatic moments of the story, such as when Conway kneels before the High Lama. Other stories, such as one I remember by Conan Doyle, have a beautiful richness of detail and incident. This is the only novel by Hilton that I have read and that I probably ever will read, so I cannot say whether Hilton achieves such a richness elsewhere. The real protagonist of the book, embodied in Conway's precocious and overwhelming equanimity, is patience, faith and civility, beauties that must have seemed fatally curtailed in the years between the wars.moreless