Review: Christina Stead’s “The Man Who Loved Children”

by writereaderly

It’s on KAM’s list, Bookclub felt we needed some Aussie Women, and we all blanched when its 500+ pages of glory emerged at the last book-in. This is considered Stead’s greatest novel of her 15, her childhood mildly fictionalised by all accounts. In the latest edition, Jonathan Franzen provides a generally rapturous introduction of this poor, undervalued novel (published here in the New York Times). Methinks this might be narcissism, given the two novels’ tonal similarities. My feelings about the Stead are near identical to my feelings about Franzen’s own Freedom: all the main characters are warped and unpleasant, and they do warped, unpleasant things to each other for *way* too many hundreds of pages. Hard to get into, drag-drag-drag in the middle, and I wish the last 150pp – which were quite good – had been the entirety of the novel. Overrated, not recommended, so glad it’s over!

Where it came from: Library via Bookclub
Time & manner of reading: Two weeks putting it off entirely with other things, a week of bits, then a week of getting the bloody thing out of the way
Where it went to: Home
Reminds me of: Franzen’s latest, Freedom
Who I’d recommend it to: Only those who are really truly on the Australian Women Writers mission
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

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