Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Citadel

I have been reading the autobiography of AJ Cronin. It was written in 1952, and I guess that as an author he is not read much today. Yet Dr Finlay's Casebook was a weekly television duty when I was younger and The Citadel, not only a wonderful film starring Robert Donat, but also a book that almost evrybody read that went through over 30 impressions.

It becomes apparent that both Dr Finlay and The Citadel are intensely autobiographical. There really was a Dr Cameron and a Janet at Tanochbrae.

Cronin was a rather unobservant Catholic and his wife a strict Presbyterian, yet they had a long and happy marriage. He gives a picture of what medicine was like during the early part of the 20th century. Lobar pneumonia ran its course without antibiotics and was expected to be fatal. Scarlet fever was an epidemic to strike terror into families. Syphilis an incurable scourge bringing madness to the next generation. Doctors sold tea and sympathy for pennies, wise words and good advice for nothing or strychnine tonics and bogus diagnoses for guineas.

Just as now they got paid more for injections.

For those who made it in this Darwinian struggle there were servants, fine clothes, a Rolls or a Bentley, a gentleman's club and invitations to sup with the high and mighty. For those who failed, there was scraping a living in a lock-up surgery, a dismal two room Bayswater flat and cheap whisky.

Cronin knew both lifestyles, but Providence intervened to deflate his ego whenever he got to thinking that his success was down to him, and the daily degradation that he saw around him caused him to remember his roots.

Life has certainly changed in the last 60 years and all of us in the Western world are affluent and well taken care of, but when I read this book I remembered why I became a doctor.


Anonymous said...

AJ Cronin, I had previously thought of you as Dr. Cameron in a modern setting and up comes this Blog entry. Dr Findlay's Casebook was a great show, compulsory vewing for a Scot. Janet I believe was Irish and also was a Champion tap dancer in New York if my chemo brain recalls right.

I was in the RAF in those days I believe my sisters knew the actor who played Dr Findlay. When they visited Dunure a small fishing village near Ayr close to the Electric Brae where Up is Down and Down is Up a small world.

Vance said...

Let's see. On May 2 you were reading Bob Dylan's book. Now on May 7 you are reading AJ Cronin's.

Where do you find the time to read?

All I get to read these days, besides short editorials or periodical articles, is medical literature -- which I assume you are reading, too!


Terry Hamblin said...

I read in bed and when traveling. Currently I am reading Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell. I guess I will finish it tomorrow.

Remember I am semi-retired. The only medical reading I do is on CLL and MDS. My daughter is a young doctor who lives at home, so she will tell me if there are any general medical developments that I ought to know about. I am not responsible for the day-to-day clinical care of any patients and the patients who see me mainly come for second opinions about CLL. So I know an awful lot about very little.

Tuesday and Wednesday this week I was in Turin. That meant waiting in an airport lounge, being alone ina hotel room and 4 hours in the air. Ample time to get into a novel.

I plan to read about 50 books a year simply for pleasure.

Vance said...

Last year I had to recertify in Hematology, so I read lots and lots about rare conditions I hardly ever see. By November, when I took the exam, I knew more hematology than I have ever known in my life. I am happy to report that I did well on my exam, but frustrated at how quickly the esoteria leaves the brain when not in daily use.

I read medical articles constantly. Keeping up with hematology and medical oncology requires it. But I look forward to times when I can catch something non-medical. I think Harry Potter was the last fiction I read!

When I was a general internist, before I entered hematology/oncology, I read much more outside the medical field. I read Hebrew, so I enjoyed much Jewish literature. Sadly, there is not any time for that these days.

Chonette said...

when you think about it 50 books a year it one book a week. I feel a shame I do not do that and have other things to divert me from reading. Travelling is a good way to keep one on track for reading books, can't wait to go back to regular travelling.
thanks for your continue blog writing

Anonymous said...

Hi Prof T, I read your film comments with interest. We enjoy films and have recently joined Amazon £5.99 postage inclusive, for 3 DVD's per month, it works very well. Recently saw The Magdalene Sisters based on a true story and very powerful. Separate Lives, slowish but very good. We saw The Constant Gardener at the cinema and thought it was an excellent film, shame it did not win top awards. I have added On A Clear Day to my list of future DVD rentals from Amazon. I like unusual films. You mentioned Fargo - Have you seen Happy Texas and The Cooler (both have William H Macy in). We also liked Seabiscuit (about a racehorse) I Also find your other comments on life in general very informative. Thanks for all your advice on CLL as well of course.

Thanks again