The Keys of the Kingdom by A J Cronin – Book Review

It is time that I write about my most favorite book The Keys of the Kingdom, an absolute masterpiece by A J Cronin (Archibald Joseph Cronin) which was first published in 1941. The book had such a great effect on my husband that he refused to read anything else written by A J Cronin, since he doesn’t want to lose even an ounce of respect that he felt for A J Cronin after reading it :) :P

Francis Chisolm had to live a very hard life ever since his parents’ tragic death while he was still a child. Later he had some respite when he went to live with  his Aunt Polly. But destiny decided to cast another big shadow on him and finally Francis decided to join the seminary.

As a young seminarian, Francis found it difficult to discipline himself in all ways and he always found himself inadequate in his own eyes and sometimes in others too. But his struggle was paid off when the rector bestowed on his the responsibility of mission work in China, that is to continue the work of his predecessor in China. Francis set on his mission to China with great zeal and was shocked when he discovered that there wasn’t much left of the Mission in China after his predecessor left it. Francis vowed to himself that he will not produce so called “rice-Christians” during his tenure in China. He was relieved when he got news that few nuns are coming down to help him. Things didn’t go well as he expected when the new Mother Superior decided to run things on her own terms rather than consult Francis. Though the mission and the new children home was run with more efficiency, this indifference by the Mother Superior did put Francis under a lot of sorrow.

Keys of the Kingdom is all about the life of Father Francis especially during his 35 years in China. He was often misunderstood by Church superiors because he often did many things out of his intense faith in Christ which didn’t please his superiors. Many a times, his work in China was considered as a failure since there were only few conversions to Catholic faith.

His faith was tested many a times in the face of calamities which itself became a great testimony to the people around him in China. He had to endure epidemics, famine, natural disasters , war etc testing his Catholic faith several times in his life.

There is something in Cronin books that you cannot find anywhere else. No other author has been able to influence my thinking like he does by writing a novel. His writings comes from the heart, almost as if he is telling his own life story. That is what makes this book also special. It won’t be too wrong to say that my faith in God has been influenced after reading this masterpiece by Cronin.

I find it so difficult to write about something that is very close to my heart… So let me conclude this writing by saying – If you ever get a chance to read this book, grab it :)

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