Keys of the Kingdom
This is the story of a small town Catholic priest who becomes a missionary in China at the onset of the twentieth century. I struggled through the first two sections that cover his youth through priesthood. His escapades were hardly what you might equate to Tom Brown (Thomas Hughes) or Charles Ryder (Evelyn Waugh), yet he is somewhat of a scamp as seen through the eyes of the clergy. The main part of the novel is set in very rural China, complete with famine, plague, warlord feuds, etc. This is more interesting reading, however it reminds me partly of Pearl S. Buck and John Hersey, and all of the stock situations you can name. It does, however, provide the author for a platform to profess his views on the parochialism of competing religions.
Who, or what, is the fortress? Could it be our own doctor darling of the story? More probably it is his wife. The story begins in the coal-mining country of South Wales, during the early decades of the twentieth century. Wales is no longer the Avalon of eld. Dr. Cronin puts his hero through the paces as an upstart medical assistant fresh out of school. He quickly makes friends and enemies, yet becomes the "Batman" of the community. Eventually he moves to the great city (London) to open a private practice, where he succumbs to mammon and "the system." Much more than a story, this is an indictment of the entire British medical community and a system of "good old boys" (I almost used a more crass term), as well as the pursuit to avarice. In many ways it is not unlike our present system of higher education: self-serving, oriented on personal recognition and remuneration, rewarding the pursuit of brawn over brains; a system in which everyone "blows his own horn!" A pointed reflection of what we have become, or yet remain, this book is as befitting today as when it was written.