The Life and Works of Christina Stead

By July 17, 2019Authors

Christina Stead (17th July, 1902 – 31st March, 1983) was an Australian novelist and short-story writer with a career spanning more than fifty years. Acclaimed for her satirical wit and psychological characterisations, Stead wrote a dozen novels during her life, as well as several short story collections.

Stead was born in the Sydney suburb of Rockdale but spent much of her life outside Australia. Stead left Australia in 1928 and worked for a Parisian bank from 1930 to 1935, where she became involved with Marxist political economist William J. Blake, the pair married in 1952 but while Stead was a committed Marxist, she was never a member of the Communist Party. Upon his death in 1968, Stead returned to Australia where she lived until her death in 1983.

In her lifetime, Stead wrote twelve novels and several volumes of short stories. She also taught Workshop in the Novel at New York University in 1943/44, and worked as a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1940s. Her first novel, Seven Poor Men of Sydney dealt with the lives of radicals and dockworkers. Her best known novel The Man Who Loved Children is semi-autobiographical and is based on her won childhood, Time Magazine included it in the 100 Best Novels from 1923-2005 and it’s considered a masterpiece in many quarters.

A summer spent in Britain in 1949 inspired Cotters’ England, her only British novel, the book is set in Gateshead (called Bridgehead in the novel), the novel was released in the US under the name Dark Places of the Heart.

Christina Stead died aged 80 in hospital in Balmain, Sydney in 1983, her former home now contains a memorial plaque and she is considered to be one of the greatest Australian authors of all time.

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