Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Citadel by A.J. Cronin, 1937

Three of my favourite authors made a successful writing career out of their chosen professions—Scottish physician A.J. Cronin in medicine, American lawyer Erle Stanley Gardner in law, and British aeronautical engineer Nevil Shute in aviation. Their stories often reflected their obsession with their vocations. They wrote some fine novels, each in his distinct style. Their books spawned many films and television series. Reading their novels is always a pleasant experience. 

A replica of my copy of the book.
Last month, I read The Citadel (1937), the fifth novel by A.J. Cronin. It is set in the medical profession, like several of his novels are, including Grand Canary, Shannon's Way, The Judas Tree, and A Pocketful of Rye, and novellas such as Country Doctor, Kaleidoscope in ‘K’, Vigil in the Night, and The Valorous Years.

My own favourite Cronin novel is the non-medical Beyond This Place.

The Citadel tells the story of Andrew Manson, a young, idealistic, and ambitious doctor—a fairly common protagonist in many of his novels—who moves to a small and little-known mining town called Drineffy in the English countryside. He works as assistant to the ailing Doctor Page though he did not know before arriving from Scotland that his mentor was an invalid.

However, Manson soon finds that he is dealing with more than he’d bargained for—his senior’s overbearing sister, Miss Page, handling medical cases, including the difficult ones, all by himself, his meagre wages, and poor conditions in the Welsh town. Not long after, he falls in love with the very proper Christine Barlow, the petite school teacher, gets married, and moves to another coal mining town where he immerses himself in medical research, quite successfully. But there is always an unpleasant turn in the life of every happily married couple, even in the life of the good doctor.

© Wikipedia
The Citadel refers to Andrew Manson’s hard-fought and hard-earned life as an honest doctor and how it comes crumbling down when he succumbs to greed and the spoils of the medical profession in London, jeopardising his marriage to the woman he loves, only to rebuild it in the end, and reconcile his ideals and ethics with the profession he worships.

A.J. Cronin’s writing is beautiful, his characters are intense, and his narrative is seamless. There is an old charm to it all. He is often considered as a rather depressing writer but I have never felt that way. There is always hope behind despair in his stories, which makes them realistic. I’d like nothing better than to sit in one place and read his book while the hours pass by.

Of this groundbreaking novel, Cronin said, “I have written in The Citadel all I feel about the medical profession, its injustices, its hide-bound unscientific stubbornness, its humbug… The horrors and inequities detailed in the story I have personally witnessed. This is not an attack against individuals, but against a system.”

The novel was made into a film in 1938. It starred Robert Donat as Dr. Andrew Manson and Rosalind Russell as Christine Barlow. It has also been adapted for television more than once. The Indian film industry borrowed it liberally, the 1971 Hindi version titled Tere Mere Sapne (roughly, ‘Yours and My Dreams’) being more popular of the lot.

Recommended.

12 comments:

  1. I remember liking this a lot and my dad has always been a big fan - but it's been decades since I read Cronin - great choice Prashant, definitely worthy of a re-visit!

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    1. Sergio, thank you. I have been reading Cronin since my college days though I haven't read all of his novels.

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  2. I've never read A. J. Cronin despite routine recommendations from my father-in-law over the years. The Citadel sounds interesting enough to make me search it out. Thanks.

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    1. Ben, you are welcome. I was introduced to A.J. Cronin by an uncle and my first book was BEYOND THIS PLACE which I liked a lot.

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  3. I've not read Cronin either, Though I've certainly heard the name.

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    1. Charles, he was a good writer and storyteller.

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  4. I don't remember reading any books by Cronin, but it sounds like I ought to try one. A novella sounds perfect. I will have to look around for what sounds most interesting to me.

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    1. Tracy, most of his books are family affairs and many of them have a medical setting. You might try his short novel THE SPANISH GARDENER.

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  5. Familiar with the name, but another author who has passed me on by so far.....and in all honesty will probably continue to do so.

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    1. Col, Cronin's work is far from what you usually read but if you're looking for a change, or variety, then you might want to read his books. I'd recommend BEYOND THIS PLACE.

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  6. I was glad you mentioned this one when I did a doctor-related post this week. AJ Cronin was very popular in his day, and now your recommendation makes me think I should try this one.

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    1. Moira, I believe he was popular in his time. Sadly, today, he is one of several authors who has been clean forgotten.

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