top of page

The Keys of the Kingdom 

by A. J. Cronin


 The 1941 novel by A. J. Cronin, The Keys of the Kingdom, was the basis for the Oscar-winning film of the same title (starring Gregory Peck). The book tells the story of Father Chisholm, a priest who makes his way from Scotland to Pai-tan, a small village in China, to serve as a missionary. The tale of Chisholm's adventures in the Middle Kingdom stretches over several decades, telling of the interactions between Christians and the Chinese people, between Americans and Europeans, and between Catholic and Protestant missionaries. All of these various relationships, and the potential for all sorts of conflict each pairing brings to the table, works itself out in the rural village in Northern China. It is great fun to read the story of this period in China.

While Father Chisholm is busy managing all of the relationships he is entangled with in China, life goes on as per normal for his superiors back in Scotland. When he makes a return to his homeland, he is faced with another potentially conflicted relationship in his own dealings with his superiors. This bit of reverse culture shock is pretty realistic, presenting a very good picture of how one often feels returning to a former home after many years spent living overseas.

Father Chisholm is a pretty likable character, and his story is a fun one to follow. It's a book, one I've kept on my shelf to revisit again.

— Reviewed by Shelly Bryant



From "Recommeded Fiction: Keys of the Kingdom" at


A. J. Cronin’s novel The Keys of the Kingdom (1941), on which was based the movie starring Gregory Peck, follows a somewhat rebellious priest from Scotland to China. The story takes place in 1902, back in the day when commerce between China and the West was rather different than it is now.


Read more at Tai Shan.


bottom of page