Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 9, 2016

Opening Lines: The Beauties and Furies (1936), by Christina Stead

the-beauties-and-furies As a prelude to Christina Stead Week (November 14-20), here are the opening lines from her second novel, The Beauties and Furies, (1936), also published by Peter Davies, London.  This time the novel begins in Paris:

The express flew towards Paris over the flooded March swamps.  In a parlour-car, the melancholy dark young woman looked out persistently at the sand-dunes, cement-mills, pines, the war-cemetery with stone banners like folded umbrellas, the fields under water, the bristling ponds with deserted boats and the little naked trees which marked the horizon-searching roads.  Her lips moved almost imperceptibly. The sky was clearing after weeks of rain.  Opposite to her sat a man she judged to be an Italian; the initials on his tobacco pouch were A.M. in gilt script, he wore a diamond tiepin and he was about forty.  Across the aisle a rouged blonde with a cigarette holder ordered Evian water and drawled about a hunt ball and ‘Esmé, a perfect darling, terrific at charades.’ The small dark woman was slipping her new shoe off her swollen right foot when she saw the Italian looking at her sociably.  She drew a letter out of her bag and tried to pretend she had just got it, hurriedly, in the morning’s mail, as she left for the train. The address, in a student’s script, said ‘Mrs. Paul Western, Mecklenburgh Square, London’ and had a French stamp.  Mrs. Western rather slowly took out the letter and read it from the beginning, although these were the very words that she had been repeating by heart during the journey.

The Beauties and Furies, by Christina Stead, with an introduction by Hilary Bailey, Virago Modern Classics, 1982, p.1 ISBN 0860681750
Cover image: detail from ‘Portrait of Lucy Beynis’ by Grace Cowley, (held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales)

the-beauties-and-furiesIf you like the sound of this, I have a Text Classics copy (with an introduction by Margaret Harris) to give away to readers with an Australian postcode.  Please indicate your interest in the comments below.  Then keep an eye out for the announcement of the winner either here or @anzlitlovers on Twitter so that you can get back to me with an address for posting.  I’ll draw the winner for this one quickly, during Christina Stead Week.


  1. What an intriguing start! Who is this woman and what is in the letter? I would like to know.


    • Ah ha, you’ll have to wait until I’ve read the novel, I don’t yet know either!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m lost. I thought Christina Stead week started next Monday? Have you changed it and I missed it? I’d better get a move on.


    • LOL It’s morphed into a fortnight because people wanted to post early!


      • Oops, I missed that. I probably won’t get to anything for a few days yet.


  3. […] This novel begins not with a long descriptive paragraph as in Seven Poor Men of Sydney or The Beauties and Furies but with […]


  4. […] can be seen from the Opening Lines which I posted last week, the novel is set in Paris, and now that I’ve read the book, I know […]


  5. Thanks Lisa
    I did find a reading of The Man Who Loved Children a bit of a slog but willing to give Stead another try.


    • Well, I felt the same. I liked The Little Hotel (a lot) but while I see its merits I can’t say that I enjoyed TMWLC. But Seven Poor Men of Sydney and The Beauties and Furies are both good, enjoyable reading so I reckon 3 out of 4 isn’t bad and I’m game for another!
      Good luck in the giveaway!


  6. […] can be seen from the Opening Lines, and my review, this second novel by Christina Stead is great reading and I hope it sets the winner […]


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