Christina Stead: A Biography

Overview

Christina Stead was a hugely unapproachable person who detested self-revelation and, late in life, destroyed many of her private papers. Would-be biographers were held at arm's length, and any so foolhardy as to persevere found doors slammed and projects aborted. Only Hazel Rowley managed to stay the course, persuading Stead's estate as well as her friends, colleagues, and family members to cooperate, thereby gaining access to private papers and privileged memories. The result is an intellectually rigorous yet ...
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Overview

Christina Stead was a hugely unapproachable person who detested self-revelation and, late in life, destroyed many of her private papers. Would-be biographers were held at arm's length, and any so foolhardy as to persevere found doors slammed and projects aborted. Only Hazel Rowley managed to stay the course, persuading Stead's estate as well as her friends, colleagues, and family members to cooperate, thereby gaining access to private papers and privileged memories. The result is an intellectually rigorous yet dramatically riveting book that brings alive this odd and furious woman who was often her own worst enemy but who stands with very few as one of the truly important literary figures of her age. Born in Australia in 1902, Christina Stead sailed for England at the age of twenty-six, not to return home until she was seventy-two. An intensely private person and an incredibly cantankerous one, Stead lived a life that was stormy, eccentric, and brave. She was highly political and maddeningly contentious - few would call her easy in life or in fiction. And yet, in her lifetime, her work was likened to that of Balzac, Joyce, Ibsen, and Tolstoy. But, in fact, it was uniquely her own.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this eloquent, richly detailed biography, Christina Stead (1902-1983) emerges as a writer whose bristling, difficult fiction was fueled by a troubled life and touchwood temperament (``Every human being is a sort of monster, if you get to know them.''). After leaving her native Australia and a divisive relationship with her brilliant father at age 26-reflected in her semiautobiographical novel The Man Who Loved Children, which she called ``a Strindberg Family Robinson''-Stead led a peripatetic and sometimes impoverished life in Europe and America. Australia was slow to recognize her talent, and financial and critical support for her work eluded her elsewhere as well until late in life. Rowley, an Australian professor, points out that Stead's susceptibility to depression was assuaged by the devotion of her lover, Marxist historian and novelist William Blech. His forbearance with a hugely talented, intemperate and imperious figure is paralleled by Rowley's incisive, sympathetic prose. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Even if you've never heard of Australian writer Stead (The Man Who Loved Children, 1940; The Salzburg Tales, 1934), reading Rowley's biography will sweep you into Stead's life and make you want to read her work. Born in 1902 in Australia, Stead lived most of her adult life in Europe and the United States. She lived in London and Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, emigrated to the United States during the war years, and returned to Europe during the McCarthy era. For over 40 years, Stead's life and travels were guided by her companion, Bill Blake, a Marxist, financier, and writer. After the brief good fortune of the prewar years, Stead and Blake spent years in poverty, until Stead's work was reprinted and reassessed in the 1960s. This book is, above all else, a writer's life. Rowley does not portray Stead as a pleasant or noble person, but she does let us see Stead's passion and dedication to her muse. The biography is thoroughly researched and lovingly detailed. Recommended for public library literature collections.-Denise Johnson, Bradley Univ. Lib., Peoria, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805042627
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Product dimensions: 5.97 (w) x 9.09 (h) x 1.82 (d)

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