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The Man Who Loved Children (Everyman's Library Classics) [Hardcover]

Christina Stead , Doris Lessing
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Mar 1995 Everyman's Library Classics
Set in Baltimore in the 1930s, this novel tells of American family life, of the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; New edition edition (30 Mar 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857152077
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857152074
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 675,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

She could transmute personal experience into something of both social and psychological significance … She was one of the great originals --The Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Christina Stead’s finest and most famous novel, 'The Man Who Loved Children', is the story of the savage warfare between Henrietta, ‘a raging wreck of a woman, driven by horror, passion and contempt,’ and her husband Sam, whose impractical idealism has brought his family to near-ruin. At sea in the world of adults, Sam is a genius in the eyes of each of his five children – except for Louie, his gauche and brilliant elder daughter. Wise and all-seeing, Louie is forced to take drastic steps to save herself and her siblings from lasting tragedy…

At once an immediate and rhapsodic study of the intricacies and joys of family life and a dark and intense study of domestic terror, 'The Man Who Loved Children' is one of the century’s great originals.

“To open any book by Christina Stead is to be at once aware that one is in the presence of greatness. A profoundly serious, deeply accomplished and magically illuminating novelist, she restores to us the entire world in its infinite complexity and inexorable bitterness.”
ANGELA CARTER.

“'The Man Who Loved Children' is Stead’s finest and most finely balanced novel. A dark star among novelists, her work is of a verdigris brilliance, of a very fine perception and always of uncalculating honesty.”
'TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT.'

“The art of Christina Stead is individual, idiosyncratic, constantly challenging, emotionally and intellectually rewarding.”
'LISTENER.'

“Christina Stead is a formidable and entirely individual writer.”
'NEW STATESMAN.'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best novel about family life ever written 21 Feb 2005
By A. Craig HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
How is it possible this masterpiece has no reviews? I'm not her only fan - Saul Bellow, Angela Carter and Doris Lessing are too, and the poet Randall Jarrell wrote an astounding introduction to this book. Based on Stead's own childhood struggle with her father, it is about the flint-eyed Louisa, plain changeling in a family overburdened with children thanks to her hypocritical, overbearing and monstrous father Sam Pollit. Their quarrels, feelings, smells and near-madness are portrayed with savage satirical wit and detail. As Jarrell said, "The Man Who Loved Chiuldren makes you a part of one family's immediate existence as no other book quite does. When you have read it you have been, for a few hours, a Pollit; it will take you many years to get the sound of the Polits out of your ears, the sight of the Pollits out of your eyes, the smell of the Pollits out of your nostrils."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What they don't tell you... 19 Jun 2012
By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Once upon a time, a writer named Christina Stead had a manuscript for a novel accepted by a major publishing house. They loved the book, they wanted to publish, they must have it.
But there was a rub.
Stead, an Australian, had set her novel in Sydney. The publishers couldn't accept that, because in their minds Australia rhymed with failure. It needed to be about America to be good.
So they had a subeditor go through the manuscript and change the minor details so that the story took place in Washington. Stead was upset, but what could she do? American businessmen always get what they want.
So the edited version went to press, became a major success, and many people started saying that Stead had written a "great American novel" that so precisely analysed American mores.
Many, many decades later the novel is still being published, still praised for its gripping diagnosis of American values, still talked about as being so essentially about a period in Washington society.
Will Stead's original version ever be published? Will Americans permit the purloined story to be restored to its original form? Will the world ever accept a great novel about urban Australia?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping read 3 Jun 2014
By Debbie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read this as recommended by Jonathan Franzen, who's writing I really enjoy. It's dark and detailed - all the dirt of human nature exposed. Grim and delightful, beautifully observed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The texture of childhood 14 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback
Can this masterpiece really only have 2 Amazon.co.uk reviews? I find that astonishing.

The Man Who Loved Children is a baggy, capacious family saga that press-gangs you into becoming one of its members. What impresses me is the skill with which Stead manages to create, in prose, both the sensory wonder of childhood (images, sounds, smells swarm from the novel's pages) as well as its painful humiliations, hurts, and hatreds.

The motor of the story is the love-hate triangle between three mythic characters: the child-lover of the title, Sam Pollit; his neurotic gorgon of a wife, Henrietta Collyer, and Sam's awkward, word-drunk daughter from his first marriage, Louie. Stead's talent lies in letting us see all these characters in both their good and bad lights. Sam's a deluded, naive control freak who also fires his kids' imaginations, Henny is a self-dramatising vamp but witty with it, and Louie is a talented but bullied teen who can also be a bit of a prig and a moon-calf.

True, this novel is desperately over-written in places. Sam Pollit's interminable lectures circle around the same theme (himself) in doodling paragraphs near impossible not to skip. There are also whole sections that seem extraneous to the main narrative and cry out for tougher editing.

Apart from the pungent characterisation, two things put The Man Who Loved Children in a class of its own. The first of these is, as Randall Jarrell points out in his (slightly obsequious and hyperbolic) introduction, the novel's final 70 pages. These crackle with such real and implied violence that find yourself hardly able to breathe. The second quality is the sheer brilliance of Stead's prose. Rarely do you find writing as assured, poised, rich and sensorily eloquent as this in a novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep insights into human nature but overlong 26 Sep 1999
By Robert S. Newman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Many years ago I happened to ask a student of mine in Melbourne, a mature woman whom I didn't even know very well, what was the best book that she'd ever read. She replied that it was certainly Christina Stead's THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN. I was stunned because I had never even heard of the author. Eight years later, in the middle of a howling Patagonian wilderness, I traded some bad novels with an Australian traveler for that very book and read it immediately with great anticipation. No doubt this is a great book. The depth of psychological characterization of each member of this painfully dysfunctional (older vocab.=messed up) family is truly amazing. The slow building up of each character absorbs the reader, the ultimate disappointment of all the relationships is a marvelous antidote to the idealistic optimism that prevails in Hollywood and beyond. Still, I felt that the author could have cut some sections, or done away with some extraneous side descriptions. The only other question I have is why Stead chose to write about Americans, with whose language peculiarities she was not so familiar, instead of Australians or even Britishers, whose particular dialects she must have known better. I have never been able to solve this problem because I never meet anyone with whom I could discuss the book. It certainly is one of the least-known great novels of the 20th century.
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Excessive Portrait of a Dark and Troubled Family 3 Jan 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Angela Carter, a literary firecracker who had much to say about the dark pathologies of the family, once suggested that if she had to choose a representative statement for the collected works of Christina Stead, she'd quote William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell": "Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to human existence." And while I have not read the entirety of Stead's fictional work, the appropriateness of Carter's characterization rings true with every word, every narrative turn and stylistic nuance, of Stead's regrettably little-read classic, "The Man Who Loved Children", even though it is a book which veers sharply toward one side of the Blakeian contraries-those of "Repulsion" and "Energy" and "Hate"-in its dialectic.
"The Man Who Loved Children" tells the story of a family, the Pollitts, who live in the Washington-Baltimore area in the 1930s, in the Age of Roosevelt and the Depression. But to say simply that it tells the story of a family is misleading. For "The Man Who Loved Children" does not merely tell a story, it makes the reader's skin crawl in the discomfiting darkness of a family dominated by discord, disfunction, and abuse. It is is book which deftly, yet idiosyncratically, thrusts the reader into the emotional and psychic turbulence of the family's day-to-day existence, telling its story with a richness and texture of dialogue that is nearly suffocating in its intensity. It is a book whose main character, Sam Pollitt, is so repulsive in the degradation of his hapless wife and the pathological manipulation and abuse of his children, that no less a critic than Randall Jarrell has suggested that it makes the male reader worry, "Ought I to be a man?" And it is, finally, a book which-perhaps more than any other work of fiction-makes the reader wrenchingly experience the saturating discomfort of a familial hell on earth, where the father and mother do not speak to each other (except in argument, abuse or threat) and where each child becomes the emotional victim of this horrible relationship and of their overbearing and manipulative father, Sam, the man who loved children.
Christina Stead's vision and writing in "The Man Who Loved Children" is excessive and troubling. It is also profound and memorable, a sharply etched portrait of the dark side of the family.
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels of the 20th century 23 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This heart-rending novel bleeds. It sweats. It screams. It is so vividly written that you truly feel each character's pain in this most dysfuntional of families. Every character, from the deluded patriarch to his betrayed son, is well drawn and distinct. The plot tightens the screws continually until the climax which is amazing in intensity. I read the last 200 pages of this book in one sitting and was wrung out by the end (the first time a book has ever done that to me!)
I note above the criticism that this book has characters offering long baroque speeches. This is probably true. It's also probably too long. Regardless, you will never read a book as vivid, terrifying, painful yet life affirming as this one. It should be read by everyone who loves great literature.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece sadly ignored by most literary readers. 15 Oct 1998
By TriciaTwo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Man Who Loved Children" is as overwhelming as Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in that it creates the reality in which the reader exists during the time it takes to read it. But it is, in many ways, the obverse of "War and Peace". It is a remarkable depiction of a family, and it moves inward rather than outward. It is a stunning piece of fiction, and is certainly one of the ten best novels of the century. Any real reader should be familiar with this book.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novels can do that? 13 Feb 2006
By Steven R. Valliere - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to experience the trials of a smart family coping and not coping with their ignorance, unemployment, poverty, conflicts of morality and vision. Witness the dynamics of the Pollit family - depictions of life on a magnitude of veracity itself. Proving as no other twentieth century novel Tolstoy's thesis as stated in Anna Karenina "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Here we find literary documentation of an engaging, charming, joyful group with a unique brand of unhappiness as bitter as madness. Madness of high acidity - both propositions packaged in to one loose baggy flowing monster. An incredible accomplishment.
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