Shangri-La: The Return to the World of Lost Horizon

Eleanor Cooney, Author, Daniel Altieri, With William Morrow & Company $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-12872-2
Much has changed in Tibet since James Hilton used it 63 years ago as the inspiration for Lost Horizon, his classic novel about Shangri-la, a spiritual paradise hidden in the Himalayas. Where monks once walked, Chinese troops now march; where temples once stood, rubble lies. In an unfortunate triumph of polemic over art, this sequel to Hilton's yarn hammers home these sad facts and a multitude more, at the expense of good writing. The novel's very structure indicates Cooney and Altieri's (Deception, 1994) disregard of storytelling principles: it's told in a confusion of time frames, first in the present of the late 1960s, then as a flashforward, then back to the present, then as a further flashback, then in the present once again. Hugh Conway, the British diplomat who in Hilton's original became high lama of Shangri-la, must reenter the world in order to foil a Chinese general who, in the midst of plundering Tibet, gets wind of the fabled land whose inhabitants can live for centuries. During his descent, Conway falls in love with a young Chinese woman. Risking sudden aging, he lingers with her, telling her how, after leaving Shangri-la three decades earlier for the brief exile that concluded the Hilton tale, he made his tortuous way back to his beloved oasis in the snows. It's only in Conway's flashbacked story that the authors touch the magic and excitement of the original. Otherwise, this is a well-meaning but ham-fisted sequel to a novel that needed none. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
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