Utopia: Real Peace or Real Freedom?
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 to the valley known as Shangri-La.
Once inside the valley, the visitors begin to react differently to their new home. Conway first notices the overwhelming calmness that they all feel. He also begins to delve into the history of the lamasery. Meanwhile, Mallinson's only interest is finding a way to leave the valley. Miss Brinklow wants to evangelize to the God-less residents of Shangri-La and Barnard, after admitting that his real name is Chalmers Bryant and that he is wanted in America, sees several business opportunities in the valley and is content with staying.
As Conway learns more and more about the lamasery and its inhabitants, he becomes more at home. Always the scholar, he fits in well with the highly intellectual environment and takes full advantage of the vast library stocked with books by some of the world's brightest scholars.. After several meetings with the High Lama, the head of the lamasery, Conway begins to believe the possibility that his arrival in Shangri-La was less than coincidental. Conway also learns that one of the widely enjoyed effects of Shangri-La is that it is a virtual fountain of youth. All who live in the valley do not age, however anyone who leaves will begin to age very...