Christina Stead is one of the great Australian writers of her generation. Rebecca West considered her to be 'one of the few people really original since the First World War. ' Stead's fiction has been compared to that of Balzac, Joyce, Ibsen and Tolstoy. THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN is a magnificent, heartrending novel of American family life, of the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives, set in Baltimore in the 1930s. Newsweek called it 'one of the best novels of this century. ' Elizabeth Hardwick has described it as 'a work of absolute originality. '
Christina Stead has had a certain succes d'estime to date. This is her first book set in America; it deals with an American family, the Pollitts, a distasteful lot; and it is indefensibly a bad book. Her non-stop prose style becomes garbled and incoherent, as the Pollitts jaw and jar, rant and wrangle, with a turbulence which defies the reader. The father is the central figure of the brood of six, and invests himself with a godly paternalism, which is viciously parasitic. Unhappy days come - the family loses caste; the father loses his job, they move from Washington to a life of increasing squalor in Baltimore. Viciousness - tyranny - murder mark the action of the final hundred pages. Up to that time, seven hundred pages of vulgar, strident warfare have discouraged the most optimistic diehard readers. (Kirkus Reviews)