The Citadel Is Built of Saccharine and Clichés

The Citadel is a moderately entertaining tale about an idealistic young doctor who almost wrecks his life trying to get rich quick.

Andrew Manson starts his medical practice in a Welch coal-mining village. He quickly realizes his medical training was both inadequate and often blatantly wrong. He also falls in love and weds the village teacher.

Andrew finds medicine has more quacks than skilled professionals. He sees the quacks making money and tries their tactics with great success until one of those quacks botches a simple surgery and lets Andrew’s patient die.

Trained as a doctor, author A. J. Cronin spins his tale with the sureness of someone who knows the field. That knowledge helps conceal the weak plot, though it can’t do anything about Cronin’s ham-fisted foreshadowing.

Also, Cronin is less than adept at developing characters. Cronin tells instead of showing what makes his people tick. It’s not clear, for example, what triggers dramatic Andrew’s plunge into pursuit of wealth.

The Citadel comes off as cliché-ridden and saccharine, but things could be worse. About 20 years later, Morton Thompson will a very similar story, add an ample dose of sex, and turn it into a longer, duller book.

The Citadel
By A. J. Cronin
Grossett & Dunlap, 1938
401 pages
#3 on the 1937 and #2 on the 1938 bestseller lists
My grade: C-
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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