Shannon’s Way

It was like me to think the worst of everyone. I’d misjudged the matron, too, fought with her, distrusted her. That was my special quality, getting on the wrong side of people, acting against convention and the grain of decency, standing against the universe, belonging to no place, and to no one, but myself.

When I put my mind to it this morning the rest of Shannon’s Way was a quick read, so that I ended up reading the whole book in under three hours. Not too bad!

A. J. Cronin picks up six years after the The Green Years left off. Robert Shannon has earned his medical degree, served in the war, and once again yearns to focus on research instead of practice. With no funding, however, he must either take what work he can get or stubbornly pursue his dreams despite disappointments. He also must decide whether fellow student Jean Law is herself a dream or a disappointment.

Shannon’s Way is a sequel of character rather than plot; time has passed, the setting is different, and those whose storylines were finished make no appearance. I would have liked to see more people from his childhood like Kate and Jamie, as new characters are more plentiful but also more transient. Indeed, except for a few references and the knowledge the reader would already have about Robert himself it might be a stand-alone novel.

Robert is certainly a complex character, as I think the above quote demonstrates. Many times I wanted to give him a smack and a thorough talking to, yet the narrative is so honest that I ended up liking and rooting for him anyway. He is impetuous and petulant, prone to losing his temper at precisely the wrong time and biting the hands that feed him. Moreover, he has retained the morose nature from the end of the last book, as if he will never quite be able to shake off the misfortunes that have befallen him throughout his life. To be fair though, those misfortunes have been plenty and they continue here. Fate certainly seems to have it in for him, even if Robert himself unwittingly helps her out. If he played Russian roulette he would without a doubt get the bullet and have it barely miss his heart.

And yet he is also a man of great passions, especially where his research is concerned. Dr. Cronin certainly shows off his medical background but for the most part the science is easy to follow, like bacteria causing a flu outbreak. These passions are what really redeem him, so that if others will tolerate his eccentricities there is hope yet.

I wondered how much of the last book was autobiographical, since several elements matched Cronin’s own upbringing. I certainly hope his own life had a little less hardship!

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Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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