The Man Who Loved Children is Christina Stead’s masterpiece about family life. Set in Washington during the 1930s, Sam and Henny Pollit are a warring husband and wife. Their tempestuous marriage, aggravated by too little money, lies at the centre of Stead’s satirical and brilliantly observed novel about the relations between husbands and wives, and parents and children.
Sam, a scientist, uses words as weapons of attack and control on his children and is prone to illusions of power and influence that fail to extend beyond his family. His wife Henny, who hails from a wealthy Baltimore family, is disastrously impractical and enmeshed in her own fantasies of romance and vengeance. Much of the care of their six children is left to Louisa, Sam’s 14-year-old daughter from his first marriage. Within this psychological battleground, Louisa must attempt to make a life of her own.
First published in 1940, The Man Who Loved Children was hailed for its satiric energy. Now its originality is again lauded by novelist, Jonathan Franzen, in his illuminating new introduction.