Title: Random Harvest
Author: James Hilton
Published: Little, Brown and Company, 1941
Read For: Thursday Night Book Club
Chosen by: Joy, June 2010
My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
I was first introduced to the novel Random Harvest when I was helping to sort through my husband's great-grandmother's home many years ago. She had piles of books that she kept, mostly from the 1940s-1960s, and I pulled several aside to read. Random Harvest was one of them. I really enjoyed it when I read it over a decade ago, and I enjoyed it just as much when I re-read it for our first Thursday Night Book Club meeting.
Random Harvest was written in 1941, and was so popular that it ranked #2 on the New York Times Bestsellers of the Year list and was immediately adapted to film. Contrary to what you may think, the fact that it was written more than 60 years ago doesn't make it difficult to read or hard to understand. The language is quite understandable, though the writing style is perhaps a bit different than we are accustomed to finding in current novels. If you have ever read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, an immensely popular book published a few short years before Random Harvest, I think that you'll find some similarities in the approach to novel making.
Random Harvest is divided into 5 parts, and is one of those stories that does not begin at the beginning. You first meet Charles Ranier on a train, through the eyes of the man who will eventually become his secretary, and soon discover that Charles struggles with major memory loss. Memory loss is putting it mildly, in fact. The truth is that after his injuries in World War I, there are a few years together of which he has no recollection, but feels the lack none the less. Taking place in the years between World War I and World War II in London and its surrounding areas, this is a story of love and war, of shell-shock and amnesia, of responsibilities and pleasures, and the mystery that is the human mind.