I remember my first time reading this book in November 1979. I found it on the shelf of the reading room at my university’s library, and I spent most of a Saturday afternoon amazed and engrossed.
I’ve seen the movies. One very good Kapra turn. One horrific musical (I decline to link it.)
The book disappointed me slightly the second time around, earlier this week. But first, the good.
If you’ve never read it, or just seen the movie, I recommend reading as soon as possible. As a novel, it’s not long. It’s well plotted. Good characterization. A series of surprises await as one wades through the second half of the book.
Some plot developments in the book make better sense than how they are presented in the movies. But I found the philosophizing a bit empty.
In the film, it makes sense that Shangri-La targets Conway, who is close to being named British Foreign Secretary (like a US Secretary of State). In the book, the lamasery braintrust accidentally scores a mid-level diplomat who happens to fit the bill for what they need.
As for the main premise: a haven from the barbarism of modern war and butchery–it works as well today as it did on the eve of WWII.
For those of you have read this book and seen the 1937 film, I’d be interested in your interpretation of the contrast between the two.