Jean B Read

From August 1978 through January 1979 I read the complete fiction of Christina Stead, as well as those of her critical writings I could locate. A writing career of more than forty years consumed by a voracious reader in six months! I trust that I was as scrupulous and sympathetic a reader as Christina Stead is an ethically and technically scrupulous, sympathetic novelist.

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Christina Stead can take comfort, if such were to give comfort and if comfort were what she needed, that the publication of a reader of extracts from her work must signify that she is established not only on the reading lists of our universities – a dubious honour she has had for some time – but also, I presume, in our high schools. I cannot imagine who else this sort of book can possibly be aimed at. Perhaps at people who want to appear to have read Christina Stead but do not relish the work of reading her admittedly lengthy novels. In which case they deserve all that they miss. Is the next step towards the heights of literary honour to be, like Dickens, condensed? Our school children, at any rate, deserve better. Christina Stead certainly does.

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