Citadel is a simple, beautifully written novel that revolves around Andrew Manson, an ardent and passionate young doctor newly out of medical school who carries copious dedication and idealism. He is appointed as Doctor Page’s assistant in the Welsh mining town. Andrew is horrified as he discovers severe irregularities as well as wide unethical practises around him. Several diseases including Cholera were spreading drastically due to bad sanitation and the absence of adequate medical facilities. However, Andrew makes determined and continuous effort to improvise the situation eradicating medical superstitions of the people and dissenting the corrupt doctors which earns him both friends and foes.
Later, Andrew manages to get a job in the town of Aberalaw and he marries his love Christine with whom he starts a new life. Initially they live in utter poverty but with the firm support of Christine, Andrew tackles each challenge. In spite of tenacious efforts, the young doctor fails to make a difference and ends up in buying a private clinic in London, where he gets acquainted with several wealthy counterparts. Gradually the glimmer of wealth attracts Andrew and he endorses the same practises he strongly resented earlier. Andrew is unable to withstand the inner battle with his own former self and is under constant quest for more money. The values he held and the call of conscience constantly haunts him. This sudden metamorphosis even creates chaos in his relationship with Christine.
One day Andrew is petrified as he witnesses Dr Harley, his close friend killing one of his patients in the midst of a surgery due to his incompetence. This incident leaves Andrew guilt ridden and acts as a major breakthrough, making him re-think about his past. He finally reconciles with Christine leaving the latter extremely happy. Tragically their respite is short lived as Christine dies in an accident, Manson is engulfed by overwhelming grief and sorrow. One of his close friends Philip Denny comes to his rescue at this point, his company provides Manson consolation and he slowly comes back to life. But fate had kept more in store for the doctor as he is forced to defend himself in an enquiry questioning his decision of referring a patient to doctor Stillman who is considered incompetent. But Andrew successfully wins the case and leaves for London with Harley.
The language is simple but very strong enough to convey emotions, well knitted with devastation, rectitude and vindication. Author, through the protagonist, tries to highlight corrupt exercises in the medical field quotidian even today. Although the plot is pretty predictable, it is wonderfully concocted together by Cronin. It gently reminds us of the importance of remaining dedicated and ethical in one’s profession. Role played by Christine, especially in the times of turmoil is laudable. She endures all the ups and downs of their life calmly and remains courageous and collected throughout. Stillman’s character elucidates knowledge is more important than medical degrees. Inspite of being written in the twentieth century, the core message is unaffected by time. Citadel still remains a perennial read.