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A Thing of Beauty

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The story of Stephen Desmonde, an English painter who struggles for recognition in a conventional world, sacrificing everything for his passion for art. The title is a reference to John Keats' 1818 poem, Endymion, which begins: “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever…”
Paperback, 440 pages
Published 1956 by Little Brown (first published 1955)
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4.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  169 ratings  ·  20 reviews

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Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usmlibrary
What a beautifully expressed book about the life-long trials of an early 20th century artist who bucks his family expectations at every turn for his calling. Stephen Desmonde unapologetically refuses to become the vicar his father wishes, and sacrifices all creature comforts to keep on painting. His story is painfully beautiful. I felt that the author understood the intensity of the true artistic calling. This is my first Cronin book. It was stunning, and I loved it. Several others are now on my ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: a-j-cronin
The story of a young man who, bucking tradition and security sets off on a very unpopular path as an artist. We follow his struggles, insecurities and growth as a human being and final posthumous recognition. Loved it.
Oct 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stati-uniti
Il tema trattato è quello dell'arte come ragione di vita,come spinta incontrollabile e incontrastabile che segna il destino dell'artista ,portandolo a compiere scelte tormentate,non volte a soddisfare le sue esigenze umane ma piuttosto le sue esigenze artistiche.È la storia di un giovane che abbandonerà tutto,andrà contro le convenzioni sociali,e sopporterà grandi disagi, fisici ed economici,pur di non tradire la propria aspirazione artistica e il proprio modo di veder l'arte.
Il romanzo è ambien
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction
I simply love Cronin's writing style. It's amazing how he can pull me into the story.

So, the story is about Stephen Desmonde, a young Oxford's graduate. He was about to follow in his father's footsteps and become a vicar, but he decides to follow his passion - art. With rebelling againts his father, he was also denied any finacial help. So Stephen stuggled a lot, but he was happy.
The thing I like most about this story is the fact that Stephen followed his dream and never gave up. He was a kind
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is an old book (1955) but I liked the author and reread it. It was kind of hard to get into with the French names but got progressively better.
Garry Duncan
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much. It was refreshing to be cast back into the early years of the 20th Century. The book is very well written and for most of the time it was a pleasure to be absorbed by the authenticity of the characters, locations and the age, however the hardships and deprivation seemed just a little bit extreme. A page turner close to the quality of Cronin's "The Keys of the Kingdom".
J V Woods
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A second reading

The first time I read this novel it didn't really register; I was unable to remember a thing about it. At times I found it a bit like reading a travel brochure or a Baedecker especially when the story was in France and Spain. Also the irritating use of french words was annoying. We don't all understand French and having to use an English/French dictionary was a nuisance. However,to get back to the story. Stephen Desmond's complete obsession with his painting and the hardship he
Jody Ruth
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And with this book, A J Cronin became my favourite author.

I love The Crusader's Tomb. I've read a few of Cronin's works but this is by far my personal favourite. Maybe it's because I'm maturing I find myself relating more to Cronin's work, or maybe it's how persecuted and hammered poor Stephen is throughout the tale which pulled my strings... or maybe it's simply because it is so, so well written.

I made a comment about one of Cronin's earlier works on my blog a few years back, and his grandson
Ulla-riitta Mankki
I am happy that Goodreads recognises this old book. It tells about a young man, a son of an English vicar. He interrupts his studies of theology, turns a painter, moves first to Paris, later to Spain and refuses to return to England when he is asked to join the army and the 1st world war. The copy of it has belonged to my mother. In spite of a little melodramatic tone of the book, the writer shows his faith in pacifism and liberal way of thinking, taken seriously even today.
Henry Tegner
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read pretty much all of A J Cronin's fiction over the past 40 years or so. 'The Crusader's Tomb' has to be my favourite. Cronin draws vivid, if sometimes exaggerated characters. It focuses on love, loss and the sadness that it leaves in its wake. Yet in the end there is a sense of hope, but it is regrettable that its cause has to do with the anticipation of Stephen's father that his grandson will pursue that old delusion and enter the church.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book about the condition of the artist at the beginning of the 20th century. Considering the idea of the non recognition of talent, the author combines the love-hate relationship with the family with the misery in which an artist has to pass his years. Love is also present but in a moving and surprising way. Cronin proves again that he is an artist of words with good knowldege of art history.
Debbie Day
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So far it reminds me of another great book that I have read called Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maughn. Having taken over 2 months to read I can say that I enjoyed every page. One of Cronin's earlier pieces set re and post WWII. As always he captures the delicacy and fragility of human life and the suffering and sacrifices made to love for the gift and passion within you no matter the cost.
Patti Richards
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favorite A.J. Cronin books. The main character, Stephen, is the definitive starving artist willing to sacrifice everything comfortable and familiar for his passion for painting. Cronin makes the reader feel every struggle and victory as Stephen makes his mark on the world through his art.
Marilyn Quigley
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: educated readers who like depth, good stories of the medical profession, and biographies.
Cronin shows the tenacity of a character who clings to his "calling" to be an artist--in spite of discouragement from many in the field. The journey takes him from England (and a father who expects him to continue in the pastoral profession) to Paris to Spain and back to England. The book's theme is that many noted artists are never accepted as "great" until after their deaths.
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful book. It began a bit slow but gained momentum as it went along. The story is of a young artist, struggling to express himself through his art. He can no more give up painting than give up breathing. It was so expressive and I felt like I could hear and feel everything t hat Stephen Desmond was going through. Highly recommend this, another exellent book by this author!
Todd Elder
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
A great read for anyone thinking of trying to live as an artist. The study of the main character, Stephen, is well developed as he goes through stages in life and struggles with what is expected of him and what he desires to do. The other characters are not as well developed, but none-the-less add different perspectives to Stephen's views on life and work.
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My favourite book written by my favourite writer!It grabs from the first chapter. The protagonist Stephen has a great passion for art and his way to recognition is torny.The book is really worth reading!!!
Astrid Turner
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Stephen Desmond is someone real to me, having read this book as a teen and then as an adult. I fell in love with his passion, his stubbornness to complete what he feels is his purpose in life. He is a thing of beauty.
katen moore
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Another fabulous read!!!
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Archibald Joseph Cronin was a Scottish novelist, dramatist, and non-fiction writer who was one of the most renowned storytellers of the twentieth century. His best-known works are The Citadel and The Keys of the Kingdom, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films. He also created the Dr. Finlay character, the hero of a series of stories that served as the basis for the long-running BBC tel ...more