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Book Review: The Keys of the Kingdom

The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin (5 star review)

The Keys of the Kingdom

written by A.J. Cronin

480 pages // published in 1941 // classic fiction


Francis Chisholm is a compassionate and humble priest whose individuality and directness make him unpopular with other clergy. Considered a failure by his superiors, he is sent to China to maintain a mission amid desperate poverty, civil war, plague, and the hostility of his superiors. In the face of this constant danger and hardship, Father Chisholm finds the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Recognized as A. J. Cronin’s best novel, The Keys of the Kingdom is an enthralling, fast-moving, colorful tale of a deeply spiritual man called to do good in an imperfect world.

My Review

5 Star Rating

A moving story, that helps you to grow as a person as you flip each page.

Francis Chisholm's life is separated into two parts, it seems to me. There was his happy childhood and the love of his life who could not be his; then on to becoming a dedicated Catholic priest and missionary.

“....I must record this inescapable sense of belonging to God, which strikes at me through the darkness, the deep conviction....”

I love the details of his life. The story told how he would venture to the church in the nighttime to pray, and peace would overwhelm him. There are great points in the plot showing how he strives to touch people in the heart. He's not the kind of priest to bring people in by the boatloads and have slackers and dishonestly “saved” people in his congregation. No, he worked hard to save each individual soul, by faith, through God's grace, and with his “good Scot's sense”. Even in China, for thirty-five years where he steadfastly worked, where he is faced with miserable circumstances, those same principles keep guiding him.

“Will you young idiots kindly stop treating me like your great-grandmother on her hundredth birthday?”

For the discerning/Christian reader: There are a couple of instances where “adult” content is alluded too. Very brief, not much. Also, there are some references to bits of theology that are not sound doctrine – but I let it pass because Chisholm is a wonderful priest regardless.

The bottom line? Francis Chisholm is a missionary of valor. I found his story, fiction though it is, to be abounding with incredible-ness and awe-inspiring encouragement.

Oh, and another thing... After finishing the book, go back and read chapter 1. I found that it fills in the ending so well. In fact, it's the real ending.

Possibly my favorite quote of the whole book, due to the comical reaction I get every time I read it:

“Oh, Lord, for once – not thy will, but mine, be done.”

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paperback // hardcover // e-book

This is book #8 for me in the Back to the Classics 2018 challenge.
[CATEGORY: 20th Century Classic]

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads and Amazon.


  1. Anonymous8/12/2018

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your welcome to check out my blogs any time.

  2. I LOVED this book. Just finished reading 'The Greening Years,' which although it wasn't as good was a lovely story none-the-less.

    1. Carol, I'm excited to read Cronin title as well. I've now read 2 of his novels and feel quite pleased with each. Keys of the Kingdom was a refreshing read for me.

  3. I've not read Cronin before. Chisholm and his work sound like a fascinating story and thought-provoking in the reader. Great review, Tarissa.

  4. Thanks for participating in Thrifty Thursday!! It's great you found one you loved! Annne - Books of My Heart

    1. Anne,
      This is a good one. I'm so glad you stopped by. :)