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Random Harvest (Audiobook Companion)

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Books You Hear is genuinely proud to present, Random Harvest by James Hilton. Though this story may be new to the post-WWII generations, it has an impressive history. Making it, perhaps, the greatest story you’ve never heard of. Published in 1941, Random Harvest was contemporary to its first readers, and is painted against the backdrop of the gathering storm in Europe. Ho Books You Hear is genuinely proud to present, Random Harvest by James Hilton. Though this story may be new to the post-WWII generations, it has an impressive history. Making it, perhaps, the greatest story you’ve never heard of. Published in 1941, Random Harvest was contemporary to its first readers, and is painted against the backdrop of the gathering storm in Europe. However, it doesn’t focus on military threats or political wrangling. Instead, it tells the very accessible story of a profoundly good man with normal aspirations who consistently put the needs of others first, and as a result, lived a life he never could have imagined. In 1942, a feature film was made that significantly altered the narrative (and narrator) of this original story. It was also excellent and was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Ironically, it lost out to a film also written by James Hilton, and with the same lead actress, Greer Garson. However, in later years, it was Random Harvest that both Garson and her co-star, Ronald Colman recognized as the project in their careers that they most enjoyed. The story is told in five parts, with each representing a significant period in the main character’s life – encompassing war, power, prestige, high finance, show business, and of course, deep and romantic love. Since the film focuses primarily on the love story, there is much that makes the book a new and deeply satisfying experience. And for those who haven’t seen the film yet, EXPERIENCE THE BOOK FIRST. You will love the way Hilton educates and envelops you with this beautiful story, and leaves you so much better, and happier, for the journey.


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Books You Hear is genuinely proud to present, Random Harvest by James Hilton. Though this story may be new to the post-WWII generations, it has an impressive history. Making it, perhaps, the greatest story you’ve never heard of. Published in 1941, Random Harvest was contemporary to its first readers, and is painted against the backdrop of the gathering storm in Europe. Ho Books You Hear is genuinely proud to present, Random Harvest by James Hilton. Though this story may be new to the post-WWII generations, it has an impressive history. Making it, perhaps, the greatest story you’ve never heard of. Published in 1941, Random Harvest was contemporary to its first readers, and is painted against the backdrop of the gathering storm in Europe. However, it doesn’t focus on military threats or political wrangling. Instead, it tells the very accessible story of a profoundly good man with normal aspirations who consistently put the needs of others first, and as a result, lived a life he never could have imagined. In 1942, a feature film was made that significantly altered the narrative (and narrator) of this original story. It was also excellent and was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Ironically, it lost out to a film also written by James Hilton, and with the same lead actress, Greer Garson. However, in later years, it was Random Harvest that both Garson and her co-star, Ronald Colman recognized as the project in their careers that they most enjoyed. The story is told in five parts, with each representing a significant period in the main character’s life – encompassing war, power, prestige, high finance, show business, and of course, deep and romantic love. Since the film focuses primarily on the love story, there is much that makes the book a new and deeply satisfying experience. And for those who haven’t seen the film yet, EXPERIENCE THE BOOK FIRST. You will love the way Hilton educates and envelops you with this beautiful story, and leaves you so much better, and happier, for the journey.

30 review for Random Harvest (Audiobook Companion)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    RANDOM HARVEST is one of the two James Hilton novels I re-read about every five years or so (the other is LOST HORIZON). It's an engrossing tale of a man who loses his memory due to being shelled in the Great War, eventually finds happiness with a young actress, and then is knocked down on a Liverpool street. He regains consciousness and knows he's a member of a prominent and wealthy family. He begins to reconstruct his life again, knowing all the while that something - and someone - is missing. RANDOM HARVEST is one of the two James Hilton novels I re-read about every five years or so (the other is LOST HORIZON). It's an engrossing tale of a man who loses his memory due to being shelled in the Great War, eventually finds happiness with a young actress, and then is knocked down on a Liverpool street. He regains consciousness and knows he's a member of a prominent and wealthy family. He begins to reconstruct his life again, knowing all the while that something - and someone - is missing. Eventually he takes over the reigns of the family business and restores it to success, and becomes a successful politician as well. Behind the scenes his enigmatic wife quietly sees to arrange dinner parties and gatherings for the people he must deal with. It seems she was his secretary after he returned to the family business... If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because RANDOM HARVEST became one of the screen's best-loved romantic films in 1942, starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson (this was the year of Miss Garson's Oscar triumph in MRS. MINIVER, but she's equally good here). RANDOM HARVEST is well worth seeking out - it was enormously popular and often turns up in used bookstores. It's a pity today's readers aren't as familiar with Hilton (other than LOST HORIZON) as he was a wonderful storyteller. He was also quite clever - I recommend reading the novel before seeing the film, as it features a particular plot device which couldn't be duplicated in the film version, although it works very well on the page.

  2. 5 out of 5

    classic reverie

    I had seen "Random Harvest" with Ronald Coleman & Greer Garson some years ago but remembered the film which some areas were a little confusing like Kitty's relationship to Charles but other than that an enjoyable classic movie. My reads are random as well as planned & "Random Harvest" was a random pick after looking at e books offers via an e mail. I was intrigued at reading yet another movie I had seen as a classic movie and to see the difference in the two. I loved this book & recommend the mo I had seen "Random Harvest" with Ronald Coleman & Greer Garson some years ago but remembered the film which some areas were a little confusing like Kitty's relationship to Charles but other than that an enjoyable classic movie. My reads are random as well as planned & "Random Harvest" was a random pick after looking at e books offers via an e mail. I was intrigued at reading yet another movie I had seen as a classic movie and to see the difference in the two. I loved this book & recommend the movie too! The author James Hilton was an English writer who also did Hollywood screen plays. He wrote "Lost Horizon" & "Goodbye Mr. Chips" both have movie versions which I plan on reading in the future. What I found so intriguing about "Random Harvest" published in 1941 were the thoughts of the characters about both WW1 & WW2 and to me reading something that is written in times of crisis with an uncertain future is profound. I have many quotes which I will put at the end of the review. But the story is a romantic in the main which the movie portrayed as well. The book starts on Armistice Day, November 11, 1937 and is narrated by Mr. Harrison who is telling the story of Charles Rainer with flash backs that Charles relates to him limited as they are because he has suffered "Shell Shock" from his service in WW1. His memory comes back to him one rainy day in Liverpool but the previous 2 years are lost & his desire to know these years is immense. He comes back home to an ill rich father & his siblings who find his return unpleasant since they thought him dead. He lives his life but certain things he sees reminds him this some past that he can't remember. This book is divided into 5 sections which are long & have a different focus on the story. I found out in this book how deadly the Flu of 1918. Excerpts-"Most of us were both--tired of the war and everything connected with it, eager to push ahead into something new. We soon stopped hating the Germans, and just as soon we began to laugh at the idea of anyone caring enough about the horrid past to ask us that famous question on the recruiting posters--'What did you do in The Great War?' But even the most cynical of us couldn't see ahead to a time when the only logical answer to that question would be another--'Which Great War?'When a placard that proclaimed "Collapse of England" regarding a cricket match - quotes are in French & German."Just think of it--'Debacle de la France' or 'Untergang Deutschlands' . . . Impossible . . . but here it means nothing because we don't believe it could ever happen--and that's not wishful thinking---it's neither wishing nor thinking, but a kind of inbreathed illusion . . ." "On the contrary, I feel rather inclined to treat my mind as one does a clock when it won't go--give it a shake-up and see what happens . . ." "For the public would not yet look squarely into that evil face (publishers were still refusing "war books") and few also were those who feared the spectre might return." " 'You're probably right. But think of all the things that are better left undone.''The day will come when men may be killed for laughing.''And that will also be the day when men laugh at killing' "About Chamberlain's & Hitler signing Munich Pact"That negation was performed, if performed is the word; talking, listening, and drinking the merged into a sigh of exhausted relief, and only a few Cassandra voices, among whom was Rainer's, murmured that no miracle had really happened at all. But national hysteria urged that it had, and that one must not say otherwise, even if it hadn't." "We are like people in a trance--even those of us who can see the danger ahead can do nothing to avert it--like the dream in which you drive a car towards a precipice and your foot is over the brake but you have no physical power to press down. We should be arming now, if we had any sense, . . ." "But wait till they've experienced the supplanters--if we are supplanted. A time may cons when cowed and brutalized world may look back on the period of English domination as the golden ages of history . . . ." "It's sickening now of the deadliest of modern diseases--popular approval without private faith; it will die because it demanded a crusade and we gave it a press campaign, because it's worth our passion and we deluge it with votes of confidence and acts of indifference." Old the radio- Matinee Theater- January 7, 1945 https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richda Mcnutt

    Reading a book by James Hilton should be accompanied by curling up in your most enveloping chair and having a cup of creamy coffee or tea to sip. His writing is a style that we no longer have in literature - much like Nevil Shute. The setting is between the two World Wars in England. The main character suffers from two amnesias: after being injured in World War I, he recovers in several hospitals, but does not know his name or where he is from; then, after having a fall, he comes to on a Liverpo Reading a book by James Hilton should be accompanied by curling up in your most enveloping chair and having a cup of creamy coffee or tea to sip. His writing is a style that we no longer have in literature - much like Nevil Shute. The setting is between the two World Wars in England. The main character suffers from two amnesias: after being injured in World War I, he recovers in several hospitals, but does not know his name or where he is from; then, after having a fall, he comes to on a Liverpool bench and remembers who he is and where home is, but does not remember the perod of time between his war injury and the present. The story progresses from there in a lovely, bittersweet manner and we meet various acquaintances and family members who provide some interaction that illuminates his character and sense of responsibility. There are subtle hints along the way that may enable you to figure out the surprise ending - but whether you do or not, it will be quite pleasantly satisfying. A very good book - not only for the reading, but for the feeling that it leaves with you.

  4. 4 out of 5

    V.

    A mystery, a romance, a history of England between the wars. An utterly spellbinding story of lost identity and lost love. I should confess I've always had a soft spot for the B&W movie, even though it is ridiculously melodramatic, or maybe because of that, but defintely because it starred the gloriously beautiful Greer Garson who could make a young boy roll up a sock and stuff it in his own mouth to prevent himself from crying with joy every time she appears on screen. The book is a beautifully s A mystery, a romance, a history of England between the wars. An utterly spellbinding story of lost identity and lost love. I should confess I've always had a soft spot for the B&W movie, even though it is ridiculously melodramatic, or maybe because of that, but defintely because it starred the gloriously beautiful Greer Garson who could make a young boy roll up a sock and stuff it in his own mouth to prevent himself from crying with joy every time she appears on screen. The book is a beautifully structured story switching between first person and third, to tell the story of a WW1 shell shock victim who loses his memory (twice) and struggles to care about a world full of people who understand even less than he does. The way his life, and losses, are revealed is masterful and the author captures emotion in the most unsentimental yet effective ways. I guarantee the last page twist will make you bite back the tears.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Palmyrah

    James Hilton was a mid-twentieth-century English writer of bestselling middlebrow tearjerkers, a bit like Nevil Shute. He is best known today for two books that became blockbuster movies: Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Lost Horizon, which gave the world Shangri-La. Random Harvest is a typical example of his work. The hero, a reluctant but successful between-the-wars business magnate and politician, is haunted by missing memories: he has lost three whole years. The lacuna commences with his being wounde James Hilton was a mid-twentieth-century English writer of bestselling middlebrow tearjerkers, a bit like Nevil Shute. He is best known today for two books that became blockbuster movies: Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Lost Horizon, which gave the world Shangri-La. Random Harvest is a typical example of his work. The hero, a reluctant but successful between-the-wars business magnate and politician, is haunted by missing memories: he has lost three whole years. The lacuna commences with his being wounded in a failed decoy operation during the First World War and ends with him coming to himself on a park bench in Liverpool moments after having been knocked down by a car. The book is about those lost years, and the hero's hunt for them. It is told by his (male) private secretary, a man who knows all his employer's secrets except those the latter cannot recall himself. All is finally revealed, and there is a completely unexpected – to me, at least – twist at the ending, put there to ensure that the reader closes the book more or less satisfied, no matter what has gone before. Random Harvest is a well-plotted, well-written, polite novel. Those who wish to be intellectually or politically challenged by what they read will find nothing to engage them here; indeed, the anodyne prose and precision-tuned plotting contain little that will excite or challenge anybody. That is not its function, nor its virtue; it is a book written to help middle-aged, middle-class, politically moderate readers pass the time on trains, or fall asleep at night At this it succeeds wonderfully, if at the expense of a tendency to drag – a tendency that grows so pronounced at times that it prompted me to give the book three stars instead of the four it might otherwise have received. Writers like Hilton and Shute appealed mainly to the middle-class, more or less conservative English reader of their day. A large part of that appeal lay in their ability to evoke and champion a stable, well-ordered Anglocentric world that was crumbling even as they wrote; they offered (false, as it turned out) assurance that England would always endure, that the sons of the shires would ever, as in Housman’s poem, get them the sons their fathers got that God might save the Queen, and that there would be honey still for tea until the end of time. They chronicled the long afterglow of Victorian England, and their appeal was nostalgic even in their heyday; it is doubly so now, if only to the dwindling band for whom such things ever had an appeal in the first place. I don't think this is a book for Americans; the sort of comic, exaggerated P.G. Wodehouse caricature of Englishness they love so much is not in evidence here. Some elderly Canadians (fans of Robertson Davies in his lighter moments, perhaps) will enjoy it; and wherever nostalgia for the days when Britain ordered and set standards for the world still persist – for example, in former British colonies gone bad, like my own country – a few ageing readers will rediscover a seduction here to which it does no harm, now and again, to yield.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    4.5 stars I first wanted the book after loving the classic Greer Garson movie, but it took me a few years before I found a copy at a library sale. Then, since it was a few years since I first saw the movie, I let it sit on the shelf waiting to be read for far too long. A rather slow beginning and a great deal of profanity deflated my rating just a bit, but this story grabbed my heartstrings and jerked them to pieces over the course of the read. The romance is the real aim of the story, and its un 4.5 stars I first wanted the book after loving the classic Greer Garson movie, but it took me a few years before I found a copy at a library sale. Then, since it was a few years since I first saw the movie, I let it sit on the shelf waiting to be read for far too long. A rather slow beginning and a great deal of profanity deflated my rating just a bit, but this story grabbed my heartstrings and jerked them to pieces over the course of the read. The romance is the real aim of the story, and its understatement through the story only seems to make it all the stronger. This is one of the most beautiful romances I've ever read--despite there being almost no interaction on the page. Charles Rainier and his wife will be some of the most memorable characters I've ever come across.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Courtney H.

    This is another book that I did a disservice to by waiting so long to review it, but I will try. I thought this was a beautiful book, and TARDIS like: its bigger on the inside. It covers more than its story seems to, at first glance; it hides a thoughtfulness and a sadness that runs like a strand through many of Hilton's war-touched books. Random Harvest appears at first glance to be a mystery and a love story. Through the narration of Charles’ Rainier’s secretary and confidant, it tells Rainier This is another book that I did a disservice to by waiting so long to review it, but I will try. I thought this was a beautiful book, and TARDIS like: its bigger on the inside. It covers more than its story seems to, at first glance; it hides a thoughtfulness and a sadness that runs like a strand through many of Hilton's war-touched books. Random Harvest appears at first glance to be a mystery and a love story. Through the narration of Charles’ Rainier’s secretary and confidant, it tells Rainier’s story. The novel begins in the late 1930s, as the coming spectre of World War II loomed over the country, but soon cycles backwards, to 1919, when Rainier woke up with no memory of the previous two years of his life. He returned to his upper class family, returned the family business to success, and gave up his own scholarly dreams in favor of a life of business and politics, in which he gained prominence. It recounts his love story with a young woman and the dissolution of their engagement. Mrs. Rainier remains somewhat of an enigma; excellent at running his life, someone he appreciates but perhaps does not love. Through all, there is a thread of loss, surrounding those lost years that he could never quite regain. It is likely not much of a spoiler that he does finally remember, of course, and we learn what happened to him during those two years, which he spent as John Smith, and in the end how those new memories affect his life and identity as Charles Rainier. I watched the movie before I realized it was a book by Hilton, and so was spoiled for an important part of the story. In some ways, it spoilt it for me, because I did not have the benefit of a literary device that worked quite well in the book. On the other hand, knowing this part of the story enriched my reading in some ways; it gave me a different perspective on the story and its development. Still, I would recommend that one read this book without being spoiled. As a result, I’m somewhat limited in how much I can in my review. Much of the analysis of characters and writing is necessarily tied up with the storytelling, and too much discussion might give it away. What I did want to mention is that Hilton does not get the credit he deserves, I think. He was popular in his day, but has not retained that popularity in subsequent years. Too sentimental, perhaps; too easy. Indeed, when I’ve been away from Hilton too long, I start to doubt my own reading of him and begin to underestimate him again. Random Harvest is a beautiful story, as is the film adaptation of it. But the novel also is much more than that. It is a story of loss; of people lost, of self lost; of culture lost. The inexorable march of war hangs over the novel, pulling England in, pulling the reader in, as someone who knows what must come. Hilton is sometimes accused of dealing too sentimentally with pre-war England, but I do not know if I agree. If anything, he was harsh about the country’s failings, though the harshness was hidden in a guise of his pleasant writing style. Rainier embodied the British ideal, perhaps, but Hilton did not reflect that ideal in the British society he conveyed. Hilton is, at heart, a storyteller. His focus is on his characters and on the story he lays out for them. His writing is deft, accessible, and simple. He writes a good romance; he writes a good hero. And then, inserted in his narrative, will be these arresting moments of writing: an offhanded comment by the narrator or a character about something bigger. You ache with sadness and loss when you read these asides, with the knowledge that we have about what would come and the almost prescient knowledge that Hilton seemed to have about just how devastating the war would be (Hilton published this book in 1941; Germany had already advanced through much of Europe, but much more was yet to come in the war). The war played, in this book, a similar role that it played in Remains of the Day. Hilton has a way of writing that lets you slip over the fact that some of these characters, Rainier in particular, is profoundly damaged; and suddenly you must remember. Hilton does not beat you over the head with anything—not his morals, not his politics, not his themes. He tells his story, but there it is, between the lines and in these. Like Rainier, the book is straightforward, and dutiful, well-mannered, unpretentious. And there lurks, beneath a very likeable and highly readable veneer, something else, something meaningful. Hilton is the kind of writer who sticks with you. You read and when you finish, you feel a bit quieter inside; and you find yourself returning to that feeling in the days subsequent; and you also find yourself returning to those moments where the novel got just a bit bigger than its story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Baker

    I've seen this as an old black and white movie several times and was curious to read the book. Reading something you've seen on the screen, or watching something on the screen that you've already read on paper always bring a bit of disappointment -- and it doesn't always matter which side gets the disappointment. The story consist of 4 parts. Part I (and the book doesn't cover them necessarily in this order) is Charles Renier's life prior to WWI where he is raised in an affluent family. Part II I've seen this as an old black and white movie several times and was curious to read the book. Reading something you've seen on the screen, or watching something on the screen that you've already read on paper always bring a bit of disappointment -- and it doesn't always matter which side gets the disappointment. The story consist of 4 parts. Part I (and the book doesn't cover them necessarily in this order) is Charles Renier's life prior to WWI where he is raised in an affluent family. Part II finds Charles serving in the war and injured, an injury that finds him with a complete and utter void of knowing who he is or where he came from. He spends 2-3 years being transferred from hospital to hospital to end up in an asylum. Part III finds him falling off of a curb and re-injuring himself and awakening to the knowledge of who he is but now with no knowledge of where he has been for the past 2 years. Part IV finds him finally recalling his "missing amnesia years" and he goes looking for answers. Short synopsis, but there you have it in a nutshell. There were a few differences from the screen version to the written version, and in all honesty I think I found the screen version more believable. I enjoyed the book, but reading a story plot that you already know can be a bit daunting and there was much of the book I felt was bogged down with details and descriptions that didn't bring value or clarity to the story. I found myself having to skim through some of it just to get to some dialogue. All in all, I'm glad I read it but I'm ready to find me a random book I know nothing about and curl up on the couch with it for a few hours.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Korri

    I am struck afresh by the aptness and loving detail of Hilton's description of autumnal London: 'For London...was of all cities in the world the most autumnal--its mellow brickwork harmonzing with fallen leaves and October sunsets, just as the etched grays of November composed themselves with the light and shade of Portland stone. There was a charm, a deathless charm, about a city whose inhabitants went about muttering, "The nights are drawing in," as if it were a spell to invoke the vast, spawli I am struck afresh by the aptness and loving detail of Hilton's description of autumnal London: 'For London...was of all cities in the world the most autumnal--its mellow brickwork harmonzing with fallen leaves and October sunsets, just as the etched grays of November composed themselves with the light and shade of Portland stone. There was a charm, a deathless charm, about a city whose inhabitants went about muttering, "The nights are drawing in," as if it were a spell to invoke the vast, spawling creature-comfort of winter. Indeed no phrase...better expressed the feeling of blanketed enclosure, of almost stupefying cosiness, that blankets London throughout the dark months--a sort of spiritual central heating, warm and sometimes weepy, but not depressing--a Dickensian, never a Proustian fug.' It is fascinating that the most interesting story is Mrs. Rainier's and here the novelist is silent. He must be so for the sake of a plot twist but it is curious. Her self-sacrifice and emotional turmoil are not articulated, only hinted at. I wonder if this is a reflection on a certain perception of women's roles--to be noble, to be unrecognized or else reviled as the steel and iron behind a man, to love in silence. She is central to the story yet at its periphery, as mysterious as Rebecca but without her malice. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I did the 1942 film version.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    I saw the movie with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson some time ago, but just decided to read the book. The movie is not nearly as detailed in what happens to Charles in the various stages of his life as the book is. You really begin to see what kind of a man he is, especially considering the ordeals he has undergone. The movie concentrates much more on the Greer Garson character. In the book she is more 'elusive' in some ways. Paula is still a performer, but you are offered more of a red herring I saw the movie with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson some time ago, but just decided to read the book. The movie is not nearly as detailed in what happens to Charles in the various stages of his life as the book is. You really begin to see what kind of a man he is, especially considering the ordeals he has undergone. The movie concentrates much more on the Greer Garson character. In the book she is more 'elusive' in some ways. Paula is still a performer, but you are offered more of a red herring as to to her ultimate character. In the movie you know what she knows, but not in the book. Obviously, Hilton did this for a good reason. There are many other characters, which touch on Charles's life, including some very selfish relatives. It's a troubling time in the post-Great War period, and Hilton does a fine job in showing how it affects the rich and the not-so-rich. I would recommend both reading the book and seeing the movie.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Saralyn

    I think this book is much better than "Good-bye Mr. Chips." Much more interesting and readable, to me. I enjoyed the story and the characters very much. Who wouldn't be intrigued by Charles Ranier? A fun book. (The movie is great, too. Greer Garson. I don't know if you should read the book first or see the movie first. They're a little different, but the movie might help you understand the book? I loved them both.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Fantastic! I read this for my RS book group, and we all came so excited to talk about it. The problem is that you can't really talk about it unless you've read it, so I can't write much here without giving anything away. And if you plan to read the book, I recommend that you DON'T read the Goodreads summary. The less you know, the better, because following the story as it progresses is part of what make this book so enjoyable. Here's what I can tell you: this takes place in England between the Wo Fantastic! I read this for my RS book group, and we all came so excited to talk about it. The problem is that you can't really talk about it unless you've read it, so I can't write much here without giving anything away. And if you plan to read the book, I recommend that you DON'T read the Goodreads summary. The less you know, the better, because following the story as it progresses is part of what make this book so enjoyable. Here's what I can tell you: this takes place in England between the World Wars. The main character is a man who remembers being in a trench during WWI and then nothing until he wakes up on a bench in Liverpool a few years later. Throughout the book his past is revealed. A couple of the people in our book group had also seen the movie adaptation starring Greer Garson. They said the movie should really be seen as a companion to the book, because, while the book is from the man's point of view, the movie is from the woman's.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bree (AnotherLookBook)

    A novel about a man who wakes up one day in 1919 and finds he can’t remember anything about the last three years of his life. 1941. Full review (and other recommendations!) at Another look book This book delighted me so much, it will probably be one of my favorite reads of 2014. I loved how it was all jumbled out of order, with the mystery of the story--what happened during those forgotten three years?--established from the very beginning. The 1942 movie adaptation puts rather more emphasis on th A novel about a man who wakes up one day in 1919 and finds he can’t remember anything about the last three years of his life. 1941. Full review (and other recommendations!) at Another look book This book delighted me so much, it will probably be one of my favorite reads of 2014. I loved how it was all jumbled out of order, with the mystery of the story--what happened during those forgotten three years?--established from the very beginning. The 1942 movie adaptation puts rather more emphasis on the romance aspect of the story, but I wouldn't really call the book a "romance." To me, it's more about a man being haunted by deja vu, and the process by which he remembers what he's forgotten. For its jumbled-memory aspect and war-time undertones, it actually reminded me of The World in the Evening. Both are very well-crafted books.

  14. 5 out of 5

    ~☆~Autumn♥♥

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I just finished this for the second time in the wee hours and it was even more romantic than I had remembered. About 7 pages from the ending I remembered it and LOVED it. This is probably the best romance I have ever read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book contains some of the most beautiful snippets of writing. I truly enjoyed reading it and recommend it highly.

  16. 4 out of 5

    ☆Ruth☆

    It's an excellently written, interesting narrative with well-drawn characters but I felt there was something a little dispassionate about it. Almost as though the author wasn't totally connected with his creation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    There's something about James Hilton's novels that generates in me a powerful emotional connection to both the characters and the "idea" explored in the work--in this case, the vertigo, confusion, and desire to re-gain a lost past felt by Britons as they entered the darkest days of WWII. Hilton's work can be passionate without being overly-sentimental, can explore the past without relying on easy nostalgia, can remain hopeful without resorting to unrealistic expectations, and can instill a hope There's something about James Hilton's novels that generates in me a powerful emotional connection to both the characters and the "idea" explored in the work--in this case, the vertigo, confusion, and desire to re-gain a lost past felt by Britons as they entered the darkest days of WWII. Hilton's work can be passionate without being overly-sentimental, can explore the past without relying on easy nostalgia, can remain hopeful without resorting to unrealistic expectations, and can instill a hope for future unity without seeming preachy or nationalistic. Plus, the guy is an expect in plot structure. I had already seen the movie Random Harvest, so I knew the main details of the plot and twist ending. (Indeed, the ending of that movie is among my favorites in classic Hollywood cinema.) Even so, I found myself surprised by the details and (important) subplots in Hilton's novel that were not emphasized on the big screen--specifically the events with the parson, who obviously represents the rapidly fading eccentric old England. I much prefer Hilton's plot structure to that of the film, if only because the ending emphasizes the twist, whereas the film audience already has knowledge of the situation. (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers.) I can also understand why this was one of the best-selling novels of the war period. How many readers in 1940 would have felt like they were emerging from a twenty-year sleepwalk? I think Hilton is unfairly labelled a "popular writer," as if he is merely pop-philosophizing for entertainment. I think it's a testament to his skills as a novelist that his works could be thought-provoking, resonate emotionally with readers, AND be adapted into so many classic films.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Morris

    I watched the movie once a couple years ago and don't really remember it that well (I need to watch it again now), so I was eager to read the book. Part way through I discovered that there are NO Chapters! What? Yeah, not a one. The book is divided into 5 parts and goes from first person to third person, back to first, and so on. The style was charming, the characters real, the plot fascinating. I really enjoyed seeing how everything came together when you weren't sure how it could. Since it tak I watched the movie once a couple years ago and don't really remember it that well (I need to watch it again now), so I was eager to read the book. Part way through I discovered that there are NO Chapters! What? Yeah, not a one. The book is divided into 5 parts and goes from first person to third person, back to first, and so on. The style was charming, the characters real, the plot fascinating. I really enjoyed seeing how everything came together when you weren't sure how it could. Since it takes place from the end of WWI, travels through the 20s, and into the 30s, ending with the the outbreak of WWII, you really get a feel of what people were thinking and feeling. My only real complaint is the overabundance of swearing. The Lord's name is used and so is one other word that most would consider swearing. Because of how many times those occurred, I couldn't give this book a higher rating.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This is a very good story.... it's completely readable and well constructed. It is a tale of lost identity due to shell shock in the last world war, The main character has become a successful industrialist but has a two year gap in his memory. His personal life has remained detached and almost unnaturally unemotional but he continually seeks clues to those missing years. The reader gets his story in a series of flashbacks as one phase after another is revealed. There is an element of suspense... This is a very good story.... it's completely readable and well constructed. It is a tale of lost identity due to shell shock in the last world war, The main character has become a successful industrialist but has a two year gap in his memory. His personal life has remained detached and almost unnaturally unemotional but he continually seeks clues to those missing years. The reader gets his story in a series of flashbacks as one phase after another is revealed. There is an element of suspense...of mystery...of romance...which when all combined makes for memorable story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary Simonsen

    I first read this book 30 years ago and again last year. It is a story of love and loyalty after the First World War. The conclusion is one of the best I've ever read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lee Anne

    Partway through this, I stumbled on the Wikipedia page for "middlebrow," a word which applies nicely to this book. Contemporary middlebrow fiction is reserved for the old Oprah picks, and your mom's book club; I myself have a weakness for the middlebrow fiction of the mid-20th century. If it's British middlebrow fiction, all the better. This is an absolutely preposterous tear-jerker about a wealthy man from a British industrial family who fights in World War I, gets betrayed by his superiors, bom Partway through this, I stumbled on the Wikipedia page for "middlebrow," a word which applies nicely to this book. Contemporary middlebrow fiction is reserved for the old Oprah picks, and your mom's book club; I myself have a weakness for the middlebrow fiction of the mid-20th century. If it's British middlebrow fiction, all the better. This is an absolutely preposterous tear-jerker about a wealthy man from a British industrial family who fights in World War I, gets betrayed by his superiors, bombed in a trench, and loses his memory. He comes to in Liverpool several years later, with no memory of what happened in between. He goes back home, takes the reins of the family business (his father dies without knowing his son is alive; the rest of the family are morons) and builds himself into a prosperous, if dull, success. We see him through the eyes of Harrison, a young man who meets him on a train and eventually becomes his personal assistant. The narrative structure makes this more interesting than it might be if told linearly--we meet him on the train, as Harrison does, then flash back to his years after coming to in Liverpool, then back to his years during his amnesia, and back to the present again. The suspense comes in wondering how and when he'll remember who he was in those lost years, because of course that was when he fell in love and was truly his happy, true self, which he's buried for the sake of family duty. If you've ever seen the Greer Garson/Ronald Colman movie version (or the Carol Burnett Show parody, which I just paid $1.99 to watch on Amazon, because it isn't on YouTube), you know what's coming, but the book is very different in how it gets there, since the reader doesn't know what the movie is unable to hide (how's that for coy?). It's completely ridiculous, but entertaining, and makes you want to go back and look for clues you missed. I was disappointed that the ending was somewhat abrupt, but otherwise, just a good, cozy read. Warning, for crazies like me: there are no numbered chapters, but it was easy to make some, as it's divided into five parts, and there are several page breaks. I made it into 32 roughly equal chapters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Prvulov

    My grandma gifted this book to me and she said it was her favorite book of all time so I had to read it. It took me a while to get into, but after getting to the end, I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed it! "'What did you do in the Great War?' But even the most cynical of us couldn't see ahead to a time when the only logical answer to that question would be another one--WHICH Great War?'" -James Hilton

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jan C

    Enjoyable read. But, I think, somewhat different from the movie. Both are excellent. This book kept getting lost on my Kindle. Can't think of any other reason that it took me 7 years to read it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Cornelius

    James Hilton deals in sentimentality and nostalgia, all presented through a middlebrow medium. That sounds harsh. And so it was meant when Hilton began his career in the interwar years, especially among the modernist highbrow set. But during the 1950s, middlebrow literature gained a slight degree of respectability--although it was still used by aspiring highbrows to harpoon great literary whales represented by such institutions as the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Modern Library. The sense of e James Hilton deals in sentimentality and nostalgia, all presented through a middlebrow medium. That sounds harsh. And so it was meant when Hilton began his career in the interwar years, especially among the modernist highbrow set. But during the 1950s, middlebrow literature gained a slight degree of respectability--although it was still used by aspiring highbrows to harpoon great literary whales represented by such institutions as the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Modern Library. The sense of ennui after World War II sent a generation on a search for meaning. And books such as Random Harvest and Hilton's other two earlier major works, Lost Horizon and Goodbye Mr. Chips fit the bill perfectly, even if they had already gained widespread popularity during their initial publication in the 1930s and early 1940s and in subsequent film versions. For the post World War II 1950s, material comfort and well being were not enough. Albeit set against the backdrop of possible annihilation through atomic war, life needed a certain frisson. And so a flurry of successful middlebrow works in literature addressed to this concern began to flourish. And Hilton's work also gained a foothold as a sort of classic for the medium. Random Harvest, in particular, sounded a sympathetic chord both when it first appeared (1941) and later on. World War II was in its second year and a successful outcome was far from assured. In that atmosphere, the story of Charles Ranier, a wealthy business tycoon and veteran of World War I who had for some months during and following the Great War lost his memory, presented itself as a paean to earlier and better times of old English values. These included a sort of feudal fantasy of intermingling social classes, unspoiled village life, and idyllic scenes of the countryside. The twist in the story is that Ranier regains his memory lost due to shellshock (aka combat fatigue/PTSD) in 1917 but in so doing then loses his memory of the time he became hospitalized during the war until just around Christmas in 1920. Recovering those three years and merging them into Ranier's postwar life becomes the task of the novel. Along the way, Hilton engages in some visionary preaching. These are the moments of greatest weakness in Random Harvest. Delivered by an old parson, these harangues cover everything from the League of Nations to the Common Law rights of villagers to restore their access to the commons being swallowed up by arrogant and distant members of the elite. There are also allusions to the rights and values of the working man in a reformed system of capitalism. (Did Hilton recognize the similarity between his social solutions and the corporatism of Mussolini?) In the end, he sort of espouses a Fabian socialist worldview without accompanying rules of parliamentary procedure. The only thing missing is an avowal of fruit juices and veganism. So, yes, it's easy to punch holes in Hilton's literary world. But taken on its own terms, it nevertheless maintains its appeal. Is it a literary crime, after all, to write accessibly for the wider public? Should an author reject giving voice to a sense of unease in society simply because it is too common a feeling? And so what if he provides a satisfying answer that lifts people out of those moments of despair about their lack of being connected both to earlier generations and coming generations. Must everything end in modernist cynicism? And Hilton may have dealt in feelings primarily. But without them what do you have? Finally, an interesting point of view for contemporary readers. While Hilton employed nostalgia for an England he saw disappearing into the abyss of World War II, readers today, of course, have an added level of nostalgia to encounter. There is not only that of the world before and right after World War I but the milieu of World War II in which Random Harvest first appeared. The two greatest political calamities of the twentieth century. And we are drawn back to them. Constantly.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Great premise, disappointing follow-through. I'm very surprised that I didn't like this; other reviews praise it for being engrossing, but I found most of it to be quite dull. Charles Rainier is an English politician and businessman who can't remember a few years of his life due to a WWI head injury. While set at the eve of WWII, most of the book is comprised of flashbacks to Rainier's life, eventually including scenes from his missing years. And, of course, there are women involved -- a cold pr Great premise, disappointing follow-through. I'm very surprised that I didn't like this; other reviews praise it for being engrossing, but I found most of it to be quite dull. Charles Rainier is an English politician and businessman who can't remember a few years of his life due to a WWI head injury. While set at the eve of WWII, most of the book is comprised of flashbacks to Rainier's life, eventually including scenes from his missing years. And, of course, there are women involved -- a cold present-day wife and the promise of an old, fiery romance that Rainier can't quite remember. Sounds fantastic, right? Unfortunately, the book needs a shocking amount of editing; it is filled with tangents, superfluous characters, and a lot of talk about the state of England during and between the World Wars. Perhaps it's my fault for wanting to concentrate on the personal drama rather than the sociopolitical context, but I found myself frequently impatient, wading through pages about England when I *really* just wanted to concentrate on Rainier and his amnesia. I hear there's a terrific movie version available; perhaps I'll like that better.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Loyola University Chicago Libraries

    Great premise, disappointing follow-through. I'm very surprised that I didn't like this; other reviews praise it for being engrossing, but I found most of it to be quite dull. Charles Rainier is an English politician and businessman who can't remember a few years of his life due to a WWI head injury. While set at the eve of WWII, most of the book is comprised of flashbacks to Rainier's life, eventually including scenes from his missing years. And, of course, there are women involved -- a cold pr Great premise, disappointing follow-through. I'm very surprised that I didn't like this; other reviews praise it for being engrossing, but I found most of it to be quite dull. Charles Rainier is an English politician and businessman who can't remember a few years of his life due to a WWI head injury. While set at the eve of WWII, most of the book is comprised of flashbacks to Rainier's life, eventually including scenes from his missing years. And, of course, there are women involved -- a cold present-day wife and the promise of an old, fiery romance that Rainier can't quite remember. Sounds fantastic, right? Unfortunately, the book needs a shocking amount of editing; it is filled with tangents, superfluous characters, and a lot of talk about the state of England during and between the World Wars. Perhaps it's my fault for wanting to concentrate on the personal drama rather than the sociopolitical context, but I found myself frequently impatient, wading through pages about England when I *really* just wanted to concentrate on Rainier and his amnesia. I hear there's a terrific movie version available; perhaps I'll like that better.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Charles Rainier has a rising political career, a beautiful and charming wife, a fine country home, and a successful business, but he is missing something - about 2 years of his life. He was wounded during World War I and received a head injury. From the time of his injury in a trench in Germany to over 2 years later when he 'came to himself' on a park bench in England, he can't remember a thing. This is the story of his life, his romances, and his ultimately successful attempt to figure out who Charles Rainier has a rising political career, a beautiful and charming wife, a fine country home, and a successful business, but he is missing something - about 2 years of his life. He was wounded during World War I and received a head injury. From the time of his injury in a trench in Germany to over 2 years later when he 'came to himself' on a park bench in England, he can't remember a thing. This is the story of his life, his romances, and his ultimately successful attempt to figure out who he is. I really enjoyed this book. It's set during the rise of Hitler and the coming war sort of hovers over all the action. It sounds like it would be sort of sappy or something, but instead I just kept wanting to read more. I put it in the 'love' category because I heard it called a love story. It is, but you don't get the payoff to the love story until the very end of the book, so the rest of the time, it just reads like the story of man torn between his family obligations and his own desires. So good.

  28. 5 out of 5

    SWZIE

    James Hilton is one of the best story tellers of all time. The intrigue he conjures up makes you compelled to keep reading to the end. Random Harvest tells about a chance encounter on a train between Charles Rainier, a very wealthy man, and the narrator, Harrison. Charles had lost years of memory after being injured in the First World War. The two men seemed to bond and Charles felt he could confide in the younger man. He tells him that after a fall he suddenly became aware of whom he was on a p James Hilton is one of the best story tellers of all time. The intrigue he conjures up makes you compelled to keep reading to the end. Random Harvest tells about a chance encounter on a train between Charles Rainier, a very wealthy man, and the narrator, Harrison. Charles had lost years of memory after being injured in the First World War. The two men seemed to bond and Charles felt he could confide in the younger man. He tells him that after a fall he suddenly became aware of whom he was on a park bench in Liverpool, but the few years prior to that were obliterated. Harrison and Charles, an MP, found they happened to be going to the same convention. Their chance encounter was to turn into an enduring association and throughout the book Charles reveals more and more about his past life, obsessing about parts he still couldn’t remember. The finale reveals a surprising twist that I didn’t see coming. It was such a poignant ending. The novel, although very old (1941), doesn’t feel dated. But you get the feel of that era, which I loved. I equally enjoyed Lost Horizon.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    I had not read this novel before, but found it extremely engrossing. The characters were well drawn, and I could picture what it was like to live in England between the World Wars. Not many books are set in this time period, especially if they don't have anything to do with the war. This book carried suspense all the way through, with a surprise ending that I didn't see coming. I would highly recommend it for a quiet and deep journey into the lives of some interesting people caught in a highly u I had not read this novel before, but found it extremely engrossing. The characters were well drawn, and I could picture what it was like to live in England between the World Wars. Not many books are set in this time period, especially if they don't have anything to do with the war. This book carried suspense all the way through, with a surprise ending that I didn't see coming. I would highly recommend it for a quiet and deep journey into the lives of some interesting people caught in a highly unusual situation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Mitchell

    this is one i keep reading over and over again. an amnesia story -- who is NOT fascinated with amnesia? if i got amnesia, and was lost somewhere and unidentifiable, what kind of life would i make for myself? how close would it be to the one i lost? what influences a person's choices? who is the real ME? a wonderful story, set in england, between the two world wars, and also a love story.

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