18 December 2012

The Citadel; A.J. Cronin

The CitadelThe Citadel by A.J. Cronin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know you're reading an old book when you read about "gay meals" (among other outdated phrases). According to the cover, this was adapted by Masterpiece Theatre and I can see why: it's very much their sort of story, almost epical in scope.

Andrew is a poor Scotsman, newly graduated from medical school. He finds a position as an assistant in the mining valleys of Wales - of course, the system is unfair, but he's a great doctor and makes friends within the community. Then he's pushed out, and moves to another mining community where, now newly married, he continues his iconoclastic ways. Again he's pushed out and finally moves to London, where he becomes enamoured with Money and Position and Good Clients. Essentially, he's become everything he derided earlier in his career; his wife, however, still wants the simple life ("one bedroom and a kitchen" would be ok with her). Because there are no surprises here, by the end of the book he's returned to those good values, planning a new practice with two men who are also Good Doctors.

You have to get beyond the plot's conventions to appreciate this. The way the medical profession changes in the 1900s, the life of the miners versus that of the rich owners and townspeople, are far more interesting than Andrew's journey.

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