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The keys of the kingdom, Unknown Binding – 1942


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding: 254 pages
  • Publisher: V. Gollancz (1942)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006APYMI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,942,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'Cronin is a first-rate literary craftsman with an honest love of simple humanity' -- Time Magazine 'Full of life and people and colour' -- Harper's Magazine 'A magnificent story of the great adventure of individual goodness' -- New York Times Book Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Francis Chisholm is a compassionate and humble priest whose vocation emerged from a crucible of suffering. His parents were murdered in anti-Catholic riots in Scotland, his guardians mistreat him, and his sweetheart commits suicide. He is sent to China where he establishes a flourishing Catholic mission amid desperate poverty, civil war, plague, and the hostility of his superiors. Recognized as A.J. Cronin’s best novel, The Keys of the Kingdom is a gripping and thoughtful tale of a man called to do good in an imperfect world.
 

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
83%
4 star
10%
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6%
2 star
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See all 48 customer reviews
It is a well thought out book; has depth to the story and characters.
Amazon Customer
While pondering what book I should read next I happened to pull this one out of my bookcase.
Brkat
I highly recommend this book to those who want to know more about Catholicism at its best.
Kathleen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
The first Cronin work I read was "The Citadel," just because it was a medical theme, which interests me, & it came in an auction box lot but was in too poor condition to be able to sell, but I couldn't bear to throw it out without reading it first. I'm very glad I did, as I now have a new author to search out all of his books to read.

"The Keys of the Kingdom" I read solely because I saw it was A.J. Cronin & had liked "The Citadel" so much, and again came in an auction box lot but was in poor condition but because of the author I decided to read it before giving it away. I have no interest in Catholicism, & so was surprised at how much I still got totally absorbed in the story. That is a real tribute to the author's writing ability! It was the kind of story that made my surroundings disappear, made me lose all track of time, & kept me reading when I should have been doing other things.

While he uses some words I'm not familiar with because they're Scottish or British or no longer used or about "priestly" items, I found I could just skip right over them & not interrupt the flow of the story to go to the dictionary, & I still understood everything that was going on. (e.g. I could figure out that the word was something he was wearing, I just didn't know exactly what it looked like. A nice detail to picture if you know the word, but no loss to the important parts of the story line if you don't.)

I think what makes Cronin most absorbing for me is that he makes his characters so full-dimensional. They're complex HUMAN beings, with faults & foibles & weaknesses & anxieties. Cronin's characters have an INNER life--you're privvy to their thoughts & feelings, not just their actions.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo VINE VOICE on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
It is amazing how A. J. Cronin, under the guise of a simple tale of one humble priest, weaves a complex picture of varied matters related to faith - and, in the process, unfolds a frank and intriguing look at viewpoints and problems within the Catholic Church. Francis, the main character, is far from being a theologian - he accepts his priestly vocation and then just lives it. (That sounds simple - but it is a rare approach.) Yet his questions about doctrine, authority, and the like, never defiant but born of true confusion about intolerance, are those which have haunted many a devout believer.

It could be difficult today for new readers to grasp the hateful prejudice which gripped many Protestants and Catholics in Scotland of the era. As one example of the insight Cronin expresses in the character of Francis, the question, as a seminarian, of why creed would determine salvation when it was usually an accident of birth, was pressing and unanswered.

Those who have a pretty picture of the seeming calm within the pre-conciliar church would do well to see the frank honesty which Cronin employs in this tale. Characters include a vain and self-centred bishop; a young woman who apparently commits suicide to avoid being forced into a marriage after incest causes a pregnancy; an hysteric who convinces herself that she has seen a vision of Mary; a religious superior who burns with pride and haughtiness. There is no bitterness or ugliness in Cronin's portrayal, but there is a vivid picture of the complexity of human nature and of faith.

Cronin is unhesitatingly realistic about the 'rice Christian' approaches which were not uncommon during the period. Of course, Francis' luck is a bit over the top - yet the message comes through that the Chinese would respect a man of honour even if they could not embrace his faith.

I would highly recommend this book from both a literary and historical perspective.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gary E. Edgette on June 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
What can one say about AJ Cronin's writing that hasn't already been said? He is a master craftsman who propels the reader along with mounting desire to see what happens next. He glorifies the human spirit and adds wings to our hearts. The moral he teaches is simple. Live for the betterment of your fellowman, despite religion, caste, race or ethnic origin and you will attain heaven and perhaps make one for yourself right here on earth. This novel was originally published in 1941 yet it speaks to the soul of mankind for all ages. The movie starring Gregory Peck (1944) won Peck an academy award nomination in only his second movie. It has become a much-loved classic among Catholics. Archibald Joseph Cronin died in 1981. I wish I could have known him. I was brought up Catholic but unfortunately those I came in contact with never demonstrated the sweetness and courage of Father Chisholm. I had the misfortune of meeting several that were not unlike Bishop Mealey. Unlike The Citadel, which moved me to tears numerous times, this novel only provoked three such moments but still they were wonderful moments. If you wonder what Catholicism is supposed to be all about or just want an affirmation of your own faith this is the novel for you.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen on December 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been an admirer of A.J. Cronin since I was a teenager in the early 1960's. He was an author who knew the meaning of his craft. Starting with Hatter's Castle in the early 1930's and concluding many books later in the 1970's, Cronin just kept improving and expanding as a writer.
The Keys to the Kingdom is one of my favorites of his works. It is the story of Francis Chisholm, son of Alec Chisholm a Catholic in Presbyterian Scotland. Francis is orphaned at a young age when his father and mother are killed in a wave of anti-Catholicism. After his boyhood love commits suicide, young Francis decides to be a priest.
His vocation is an example of humility, love, compassion and tolerance--virtues which are contrasted with the worldliness and superficiality of the ambitious clergyman, Anselm Mealy. Cronin is a master at portraying the character of Scottish people whom he loves in spite of his succint insight and commentary on their faults and foibles.
I highly recommend this book to those who want to know more about Catholicism at its best.
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