The Classics Club Spin Lands on The Citadel
The stars were clearly in alignment when the Classics Club wheel stopped spinning this weekend. It must have known that there are two reading events this month when we celebrate Celtic authors — Ireland Reading Month and the Dewithon Reading Wales month — because the spin landed within that part of my list devoted to Celtic authors.
Book #18 from my list is by a Scottish author but is set in the South Wales valleys, painting a bleak picture of life in the coal-mining communities in the 1930s.
The Citadel by A J Cronin, published in 1937, is based on Cronin’s own experience as a doctor in the valleys — including the town of Tredegar where I was born. So reading this book is going to have a personal resonance.
The novel is focused on an idealistic, newly qualified doctor, who arrives from Scotland to work as an assistant in a small (fictitious) Welsh mining town. He’s shocked to find high levels of disease caused by poverty and poor housing conditions but encounters resistance from other medical practitioners who cling to their traditional methods.
The Citadel was considered a groundbreaking novel when it was published because of its treatment of medical ethics. Cronin also drew attention to the injustice inherent in a health system where treatment was based on the patient’s ability to pay. As a result he was given credit as the inspiration behind the creation of the National Health Service in 1948.
There have been multiple film adaptations, the most renowned of which was the 1938 Oscar-nominated version starring Robert Donat, Ralph Richardson and Rex Harrison.
I’ve seen that film version many times in my life but never got around to reading the book on which it was based. Now, according to the “rules” of the Classics Club I have until 30 April to put that right.
28 thoughts on “The Classics Club Spin Lands on The Citadel”
The Citadel has been on my TBR list for ages so I’ll be very interested indeed to see what you think of it!
Do you remember the film version?
There was a 1983 BBC TV adaptation. You can watch it on YouTube, if you can stand the rather poor reproduction (and low production values of the 1980s).
The moral challenges made quite an impression on me when I first saw this in my twenties. I’ve never read the book, but it is in my list.
I’ve certainly seen a TV adaptation – not sure if it was this one though. Shall have to have a look. Thanks jenny for highlighting it.
I read this years ago and now I want to return to Cronin. I am pretty sure I saw a “Masterpiece Theater” series based on this – probably a BBC series. BTW, I have appreciated your well-written reviews for years now but am not much of a commenter. :
Hi Kat, thanks for being such a loyal follower – comments are lovely of course but I know some people are not comfortable with doing that. No need to apologise! There were definitely adaptations but I don’t think any of them were a series. I could be wrong though!
Why had I never registered this was set in South Wales? I always assumed from the title that this was based in the classical or medieval period, but now I shall make it my business to read it, especially as Tredegar is just across Llangattock Mountain from us in Crickhowell…
Cronin worked in Tredegar as a young doctor and was involved in some kind of society that enabled people on low income to get medical care – he advocated this be adopted for the whole country. Luckily for him, the MP for Tredegar was listening (Aneurin Bevan) and we all know what happened as a result
I loved The Citadel when I read it in my teens. I’ll see if I still have a copy, but I think it probably went during one of my book ‘culls’. All I can find on my shelves now is a Reader’s Digest abridged version.
Maybe your library will have a copy Margaret.
Sadly it doesn’t have a copy!
Interesting! My old boss thought very highly of Cronin so will be interested to hear your thoughts!!
His name seems to have largely disappeared
I know nothing of English medicine except Doctor in the House. How cool this is based on your ‘home’ town. Did you grow up there? (I think I’ve only been to the town I was born in twice in my life).
I was born there because that was where the nearest maternity hospital to where my parents lived. We never lived there but my dad worked in a bakery in the town for years and when I was old enough I used to go there every Saturday for ballet lessons. So I know it well!
Oh, this sounds good! And I love it when a book has a personal connection to my own life. That’s really cool!
The Citadel is one of those books I really want to read and have somehow never got round to – I will be interested to hear what you make of it!
This is a book I haven’t Got Around To either, so I’m looking forward to your review.
Three cheers for the Classics Club Spin! 🥳This is a new one on me, Karen – many thanks for sharing. 😊
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I have never heard of it before, but it really sounds interesting.
Can’t wait to read your thoughts!
A. J. Cronin’s Citadel was one of my fav. books in early 1970 s. Will read it again now.
Oh wow, I had no idea this was what it was all about. Sounds fascinating.
I got a classical mystery: https://wordsandpeace.com/2023/03/20/the-classics-club-what-i-got-for-the-classics-spin-33/
What a perfect result! I loved A.J. Cronin’s books when I was a teenager, the details of The Citadel are gone in the mists of time but I do remember liking it very much indeed.
I’ve never heard of this one, I look forward to your review but I’ll be looking out for a copy of my own in the meantime.
(I loved Dr Finlay’s Casebook, I’ve got the whole series on DVD!)
I read this one fairly recently and really enjoyed it. It’s so interesting from a social history aspect.
I read this book way back in my teens and remember being blown away by it at the time. It led to me reading several of his books one after the other and for a while he was one of my top authors. It’s been many years since I revisited him though, but I want to! I hope you enjoy it. 😀
Sounds interesting. Here in the USA 🇺🇸 we are still waiting on affordable Healthcare, tho Obama are has helped a lot.