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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 (5 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 (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 680,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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.”

“'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.”

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

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

--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
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The mayhem that is family life 16 Sep 2011
You immediately become aware when reading this book how much Christina Stead might be thought to have been in need of a creative writing class or, indeed, a strong editor, as this crazy novel sprawls, messy, repetitive, overlong in many places - but how grateful we should be that she didn't have these alleged benefits as her genius rampages across the verbose pages. This goes for all her books really, but Children is her masterpiece and it comes as life does, straight at you with no time for organisation or reflection. Sam Pollit does indeed love his children, indeed, he almost devours them, they are his mission in life and do become his work as he loses his job because of his arrogant self-belief and intransigence. He cuts his tribe off from the world, creating their own private language (and this is a fabulous thing, a mixture of mispronunciation and childish concoctions - this book is apparenly based on Stead's own family and I would love to know how much of the family language was taken from life). Needless to say, Sam and his second wife come together merely to create more children after hideous, ground-shaking rows, and in-between, communicate only by notes and through messages conveyed by the children, while their ramshackle house falls to pieces around them. The sheer exuberance of the writing and the grotesqueness of some of the characters reminds you of Dickens, but really Stead is unique and cherishable and should be read much more than I suspect she is these days.
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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
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
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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