'All the June Saturday afternoon Sam Pollit's children were on the lookout for him as they skated round the dirt side-walks and seamed old asphalt of R Street and Reservoir Road that bounded the deep-grassed acres of Tohoga House, their home.'
When Henrietta, priviliged and sheltered, married Sam Pollit, a handsome biologist, she expected a smoothly comfortable society life if Washington.
Ten years into the marriage, the Pollit family is in ruin. Sam and Henny seldom speak to each other, communicating mostly by notes or through the children. Sam is the man who loves children so much that he has fathered six of them. Yet they are the helpless victims of his egomania, his indecent prying, and his emotional and physical bullying. Embittered by ceaseless child-bearing and growing poverty, Henny has sunk into self-pity, violent abuse of Sam, a squalid affair, and dishonest ways with money.
With great power, compassion and understanding, Christina Stead reveals the effects of all this on the Pollit children, bringing the novel to its horrifying and unforgettable climax. Along the way, this remarkable work revels in scenes of wild comedy and a rich gallery of minor characters.