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The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead: A Classic of Family Dysfunction

man who loved children

The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Published in: 1940
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it here: The Man Who Loved Children: A Novel

The Man Who Loved Children is a family saga set in the 1940s. The Pollit family is a dysfunctional one on all levels. Henny and Sam Pollit are trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage and their discord seeps down to their children. Henny appears mentally unbalanced, unloving, and unsympathetic. At first, she seems to be the villain in the family. She screams and threatens her children and generally behaves in an appalling manner but, as events unfold, we gain a clearer understanding and empathy for Henny who is powerless and trapped by her surroundings. Family patriarch Sam Pollit (who is based on the author’s own father) seems jolly and loving toward his family but, in reality, his childishly patronizing manner and lack of self-awareness reveal him to be far from the story’s hero. He talks to his family in a form of baby-talk, at times singing and rhyming and suppressing any signs of autonomy or independence in his children. Sam is an idealist who can’t see past his own ideals to recognize the squalor and unhappiness of his own family. Read more