Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

House of All Nations was the third novel in Stead’s long and prolific literary career. Inspiration and material for the novel came while Stead, an Australian, worked in a Paris bank while living with William J. Blake, the Marxist economist whom she eventually married. While the themes present in House of All Nations chronicle an important period of Stead’s growing political awareness, the novel is not as intimately autobiographical as her later work, particularly The Man Who Loved Children (1940), her fourth and most critically acclaimed novel.

House of All Nations is notable for its exquisitely complicated plot and its skillful indictment of the relationship between individual and collective greed. The later brilliance of Stead’s narrative technique is practiced and refined in this novel. After producing House of All Nations and in addition to her more autobiographical and domestic emphasis, Stead created a number of female protagonists rivaling Jacques Bertillon in their ambition and adventurousness. Later women characters, such as Teresa in For Love Alone (1944) and the title character of Letty Fox: Her Luck (1946), face uniquely female challenges and represent the author’s specifically feminist political concerns.

Stead’s political sentiments, out of favor in the McCarthy era, are partly responsible for the unavailability of some of her work in the United States during that period and some years after. Given the renewed interest in the feminist and political ideology that Stead’s work espouses, much of it was republished and made widely available in the years preceding her death in 1983.