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The Man Who Loved Children: A Novel Paperback – July 6, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0312280444 ISBN-10: 0312280440 Edition: 1 Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 Reprint edition (July 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312280440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312280444
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Were the critics and the public right in 1940 when they rejected this strange book? Or were later critics right when, in 1968, they "rediscovered" The Man Who Loved Children and dubbed it a modern classic? Given the book's excesses and strengths, it is difficult to make a reasonable literary judgment either way. But simply as a portrait of an extraordinary family, the book probably has no equal. And what a family! A charismatic, egotistical father (Sam) spouts nonstop high-minded rubbish while using playful camaraderie to dominate his seven children. His bitter wife (Henny), overworked and desperate, communicates mostly through screaming tirades. Louie, the sensitive older daughter, agonizes as she witnesses the events that eventually lead to tragedy. Although the larger-than-life domestic scenes may not always be pleasant to read, they are nevertheless unforgettable. Listening to them might actually be better than reading them, since the reader might be tempted to skip Sam's long-winded harangues and so disrupt the narrative. With tapes, the splendid writing can be fully appreciated. M.C. Herbert reads the challenging text with skill and understanding. It is unfortunate, however, that the excellent introduction by Randall Jarrell is not included. Recommended for literary collections.?Jo Carr, Sarasota, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This crazy, gorgeous family novel is one of the great literary achievements of the twentieth century. I carry it in my head the way I carry childhood memories; the scenes are of such precise horror and comedy that I feel I didn't read the book so much as live it."—Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections

"A story of life, faithfully plotted, clearly told, largely peopled with real souls, genuine problems; it is realistically set, its intention and drive are openly and fully revealed; it is also a work of absolute originality."—Elizabeth Hardwick

"It must be a classic, for there are very few novels in English that are as large and as beautifully written."—Robert Lowell

"One of the best novels of this century."—Walter Clemons, Newsweek

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Customer Reviews

The novel is full of amazing realistic and violent detail.
Angeline Koh
It remains one of the most touching and intelligent books I've ever read and I heartily recommend it to sensitive and intelligent readers.
T. Pallen
And finally, if you do get the book, don't read the introduction by Doris Lessing until you're done with the novel.
Rob T

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on September 26, 1999
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.
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 2001
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?
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 1999
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.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By TriciaTwo on October 15, 1998
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.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Steven R. Valliere on February 13, 2006
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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