Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Lost Horizon Readalong

Lost Horizon

So the Lost Horizon readalong is complete! Big thanks to LaLa for reading along with me- this was a fun one. And kind of a relevant read too, in many ways- at least I thought so. In the era of virus pandemic it was very interesting to read about a place of refuge like Shangri-La. A place where those weary of the world can perhaps retreat and find an escape. But is the escape worth the price? That is, of course, the central question of this story.

I'm not going to do a review of this story, rather I wanted to just generate some discussion and mull over some of the questions raised by the book. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts and questions. And anyone please feel free to jump in! Whether you've read the book, or even if you haven't but just want to weight in- I'd love to know your thoughts. Have you read Lost Horizon? 

So the gist of the story is that four people being evacuated from India during a revolution are kidnapped and taken to remote Tibet, where they find a lamasery hidden deep in the mountains. And this will get a little spoilery so heads up if you want to avoid details. The protagonist is Conway, a world weary British official who slowly comes to realize that maybe their arrival in Shangri-La was no accident. The lamasery itself is a refuge from the world, hidden away and remote, and yet they have some modern amenities- and even more astonishingly, they also seem to have a way to prolong life. Before long Conway and his companions must decide- do they want to stay in Shangri-La with its possibility of extended lifespan, or do they return to the outside world?   


The first sentence made me laugh as it references old school friends and how they find, oftentimes, that they have less in common than they remember! 

"Americans, Conway reflected, had the knack of being able to say patronizing things without being offensive." Hmm... I'm not sure that's true anymore! 

"What most observers failed to perceive in him was something quite bafflingly simple; a love of questions, contemplation, and being alone." Said every introvert ever!

Brinklow adjusting her hat as their plane crashed! 

Okay, so... the promise of Shangri-La is not only escape from the outside world, but a stewardship of the world's cultural treasures and knowledge. A repository of wisdom against the threat of future annihilation. The tricky part is- once you're there, you're not allowed to leave. How would you feel about being rescued and finding peace in a sheltered valley, with an extended lifespan? Would you want to go? 

Complicating things is the fact that the High Lama encourages people to be brought there- so rather than just an occasional itinerant seeking knowledge, people are actually brought there against their will. And it's hinted that while the lamas may not physically prevent one from leaving, they may withhold the aid that would be necessary to survive the journey to the outer world. 

I kinda think this validates a lot of Mallinson's objection to the place. I found myself thinking throughout the book that I'd be happy to stay there (especially during this pandemic) but... does this intentional deception make the place evil in some ways? I think you can argue yes. 

I love the setting- the blue rooftops, colonnades, lotus pools and pavilions. The library sounds lovely with its bays and alcoves and is described as spacious and lofty. 

Do you ever feel like you don't have enough time? Conway feels that if he stays he will no longer have to worry that he is wasting time in idleness. With a longer lifespan he can indulge in whims, study subjects that might seem frivolous in the outside world, and just generally have what we all crave- more time? 


  1. I really enjoyed my re-read, so thanks for coming up with the idea for this read-along! I don't think I would have thought about reading this book for my A Year of Classics Challenge. I certainly think you are psychic in choosing it because it brought up so many thoughts about current situations not only with the Covid crisis, but with immigration, world view, religion, greed, and the Puritan work ethic.

    I found it interesting that before any of them knew leaving was all but a ruse, that at first most of them were willing to risk their lives leaving right away to get back to their everyday life and what they valued, rather than wait a couple of months in virtual utopia for a skilled caravan. I also thought it was funny that the missionary viewed enjoying life and appreciating knowledge and nature's beauty as being lazy and not virtuous. Ha ha.

    I appreciated even in the 1930s the author saw how including other cultures and their arts, and considering other religions makes your own life and society richer. Why have we not learned?

    I also get, now in my older years, how my "wisdom" (ha ha) lets me process information more equitably and entertain more grey areas; seeing both sides, how all or nothing very rarely works, and how it's a shame this comes in the later time of life when you have less time to study things in this frame of mind. It would be wonderful to have the Shangri-la extended life to continue to learn in this more open way and share with others.

    I am going to buy a used paperback to anotate. It was a quick read, so I am going to read it again before the year is out and mull over some more elements of the book before I review it. My discussion post will be up on Thursday. 👍✨

    1. You're welcome! I love the awesome comment!!! And yes- is this book prescient or what?

      Exactly. Everyone was so anxious to get back to their rat race lives, and I liked how Conway was that outlier who was contemplative and not just a slave to ambition.

      I also got some amusement over Brinklow's attitudes. A perfect microcosm of Eastern vs Western views, especially at that time.

      And yes also so much relevance to now. It's amazing how little we seem to have learned, and how this book feels like it addresses the "now" moment even as it must have then too.

  2. So much fun! I would love to do a buddy read one of these days, too! It would definitely give me some incentive to read more of my TBR lol. I do feel as though as I am always pressed for time. ;)

    1. Buddy reads are fun! I hope you get a chance to do one.

  3. I've never read this but I think I may have seen the movie...??

    1. I think there were two movies? The old one and a newer musical? I'm thinking of definitely watching the old Frank Capra one though, especially after reading this!

  4. This makes me want to do a buddy read. :)

  5. I saw a movie version of this book a long time ago and remember liking it. Although there's a sad bit at the end when they try to leave Shangri-La. I wouldn't mind having a place like that to escape to right now. :)

  6. The title sounds vaguely familiar but I'm not sure I've ever really heard of this one. It sounds really interesting! I do love the sound of the setting and I may have to pick this one up.

  7. This sounds interesting. I've never read this.

  8. I've never read this book but it sounds like it definitely gives you a lot of food for thought.

  9. I do wish I could go back and make decisions differently based on the things I've learned. I don't know if I'd want to stay somewhere I couldn't leave. I know that as easy as this quarantine has been for me as an introvert,I do miss being able to just go somewhere like a store and wander around. Or a library and sit and work and people watch. Good thoughts!