The characterization of the four people is very unique. It feels they are real people I come across every day; a funny American, two British Consuls and a Christian missionary - all with different mindsets who blend well with different situations; but there is one person who doesn't. I must admit that the main character, Richard Conway, reflects my soul very intimately. The story is fast-paced; it does not waste time in narrating unnecessary details. This enabled me to get immersed in the novel completely.
The latter half of the book is about philosophy. It is centered around the principle of moderation. The atmospherics of Shangri-La and the discipline of moderation makes man defy time - he ages slowly, but he cannot live forever - death is inevitable. The idea behind the principle is, that man's dedication needs enough time to attain the highest level of wisdom; moderation is the way in which there is no race against time. You will comfortably learn everything about Nature at your own pace. Apart from this, the thought processes involved in the minds of the High Lama, Chang and Convey, and the interactions between them are exquisitely detailed. H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and She also describe philosophy. But, this one has a different feel to it - an exotic flavor that is enjoyable to read.
I hardly have any words to describe the extent of beauty with which this book is written. If I like to put it the other way, the words by which the Secret of Happy Life is articulated is so enchanting that it truly defines the beautiful mind and soul of James Hilton. I have become a big fan of this guy and I long to read all his works. Well, this invaluable novel deserves to be in everyone's bookshelf. I would certainly revisit it sometime in the future. Lastly, I quote the words by the High Lama to lift your spirits up.
My friend, it is not an arduous task that I bequeath, for our order knows only silken bonds. To be gentle and patient, to care for the riches of the mind, to preside in wisdom and secrecy while the storm rages without — it will all be very pleasantly simple for you, and you will doubtless find great happiness.