Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Although published in 1973, The Little Hotel is actually the result of Christina Stead’s combining earlier material: “The Hotel-Keeper’s Story” (1952), which concerns Madame Bonnard and the Mayor of B., and “The Woman in the Bed” (1968), which explains Lilia’s break with Robert and her decision to give money to Miss Chillard. Because of the way the stories are yoked together, almost without alterations, the novel lacks unity and consistency in point of view. It is, however, very much of a piece with Stead’s other works in terms of its view of families, its portraits of international wanderers, its treatment of money and the exploitation of women, and its concern for the isolated individual. Although in length it is little more than a novella, The Little Hotel closely resembles the much longer House of All Nations (1938) in its condemnation of a society motivated by greed. Stead indicates the exploitive capitalistic society with its decadent parasites who are privileged guests in the hotel that serves as a microcosm of the world. It is this world setting and worldview that make her, unlike Patrick White, another great Australian novelist, almost “un-Australian”; although “feminist” in her portrait of Lilia, her opposition to exploitation extends beyond feminism to encompass all oppression.