In the High Peaks

Friday, October 2, 2015

Library Book Sale Haul & Scottish Writer A.J. Cronin

A stellar day! I didn't realize it but today marked the first day of Crandall Library's Book Sale. They hold three per year. I have not been able to attend for quite a number of years due to my former teaching schedule.

Classics Club Loot!  I found decent copies of six of my Classics Club List titles, each for 50 cents per book. A lucky day!
I found a very good copy of The Red and the Black by Stendhal.
A top-notch copy of The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.
A decent copy of Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather--a very good copy
A "bathtub" copy of The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham (wavy pages but readable)
A very good copy of The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

I found a halfway decent copy of A Song of Sixpence by A. J. Cronin. I must read it, and perhaps I'll have to decide it's a classic. After all, it was shelved in the "Classics" section at the Library Book Sale. Due to my deep affection for A. J. Cronin's books and the intriguing plot description of A Song of Sixpence, I bought it. 

After I finished my genealogical course last month, I found myself hankering for a series about a country doctor in Scotland, England, or elsewhere in Great Britain. Katrina of Pining for the West searched her brain for me, and she told me about the Scottish writer A.J. Cronin's Doctor Finlay stories, which were once serialized on the BBC. (A.J. Cronin was born in Argyllshire in 1896 and died in 1981.)

I read two A.J. Cronin (Archibald Joseph Cronin) novels when I was a freshman in high school. I read them for pleasure, not for a school assignment. My favorite was The Citadel. I fell in love with the doctor in that novel, who tries so hard against all odds to help his patients, first in a mining village and later in London. And the other was The Green Years, which is about a young boy and teen who has ambition to become a doctor. He encounters enormous obstacles, not the least of which are his origins as an orphaned Irish-born relative of dour, severe Scottish relatives with whom he is sent to live. Actually, not all of them are terrible, because several of them help him to go to school and take his exams for the university and medical school. Perhaps some of you saw the Hollywood film The Green Years? That's what made me eager to read the book. By the way, Cronin's characterizations and plotting are exceptional.

So, I have been reading Cronin's Doctor Finlay's Casebook. I've read numerous stories so far of a fictitious Scottish country doctor and find them to be wonderful, comforting stories, although not all of Cronin's medical fiction, as I've mentioned, are comfort reads. The Citadel is notable among his realistic and gritty novels of medicine. Top-notch, unforgettable drama! And with Cronin, as in all his novels, there is always a keen focus on character.

A. J. Cronin was a physician in Scotland, and his knowledge and experience adds so much to his writing. I'm so sorry that he is not read much in the U.S. any longer, because the themes of his most realistic medical novels, The Citadel and Shannon's Way and one other, which is not coming to mind at the moment (!), resonate with current crises in American medicine.


  1. By coincidence I've just finished reading Cronin's The Spanish Gardener which is very good and was made into a film starring Dirk Bogarde. Cronin was a doctor in the town which I grew up in - Dumbarton, just north of Glasgow.

  2. Katrina,
    I have never heard of The Spanish Gardener. I remember you telling me the town, but I couldn't remember Dumbarton. It's etched in my brain now.
    I'll have to look up this title.
    Best to you,