The Man Who Loved Children, an acclaimed twentieth-century classic, is an unforgettable portrait of a magnificently dysfunctional family.
The Pollits—Sam and Henny and their swarming household of children and animals—inhabit an America wracked by the Great Depression, but are even more deeply embedded in a world of their own making. This is an intense, suffocating, theatrical, all-encompassing world, poor in material goods but rich in emotion and language. Manipulative, hyperbolic cheer from the haplessly egotistical father is matched by floods of exuberantly venomous invective from his infuriated wife, while Louie, the mistreated, love-hungry little girl at the heart of the story, is precocious and tenacious in equal measure, an ugly duckling we find ourselves fiercely rooting for.
Everything about the Pollits—their excesses of energy and indulgence, their closeness, their bitterness, their emotional fireworks—is extreme, but the paradoxical marvel of Christina Stead’s masterpiece stems from its power to convey out of such extremes an utterly convincing depiction of the central relationships of human experience.