Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 10, 2016

Opening Lines: House of All Nations (1938), by Christina Stead

house-of-all-nationsAs a prelude to Christina Stead Week,  (14-20 November) here are the opening lines from her third novel, House of All Nations (1938), published by Simon and Schuster.  This novel begins not with a long descriptive paragraph as in Seven Poor Men of Sydney or The Beauties and Furies but with dialogue:

They were in the Hotel Lotti in the Rue de Castiglione, but not in Léon’s usual suite.  Léon’s medicine case in yellow pigskin lay open, showing its crystal flasks, on a Louis XV chair.  The Raccamonds, man and wife, bent over this case and poked at it.

‘He always travels with it: cowardice of the lion before a common cold, eh?’ Aristide reflected.

Marianne sniffed.  ‘He’s afraid to lose his money, that’s all.’

The white door opened a few inches and an immense head, with long black hair carefully brushed over a God’s acre of baldness, appeared in the crack.  Clear brown eyes sunk in large sockets searched them, forgave them.  ‘Hello, Aristide!  Just having a bath,’ said the head. ‘Wait a few minutes, will you?  Sit down, Marianne. Ring if you want anything.  Excuse me.’  The door shut.  In a moment, it reopened.  ‘Excuse me.  how are you, Marianne? Do you want some tea, some – a cockta’, sherry?  Ring, on the telephone.  I’ll be with you in a minute.’

The door shut.  Water was running behind several doors.  Marianne fingered the curtains.  ‘Why did they give him a suite at the back this time?’

‘Perhaps they’re full up?’

‘So early in spring?  No.  he must be economising.’

House of All Nations, by Christina Stead, with an introduction by Alan Kohler, Miegunyah Press (an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing), 2013, p.3 ISBN 9780522862003
Cover design & illustration by Mirian Rosenbloom

Available from Fishpond: House of All Nations $32.99 (but on the day I looked they had second-hand copies for under $20, delivery free).


  1. Is Christian Stead Week Nov14-20?


    • Yes, I’m a bit ahead of myself because a couple of people have posted early. It’s kindof morphed into a fortnight…


      • Ok, I thought I had it wrong.


        • Not at all, and I’ve just amended the intro to this post and another one to make it clearer.


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