Books: Moral Leper

A LITTLE TEA, A LITTLE CHAT (394 pp.) —Christina Stead—Harcourt, Brace ($3.75).

Christina Stead's prose is as hard and cold as a cake of ice. A sharp-eyed Australian now living in the U.S., Miss Stead specializes, with the murderous calm of a hangman slightly bored by his job, in dissecting egotists and connivers. One of her better novels, House of All Nations, was a long, superbly documented description of the world of high finance, which viciously satirized the European big money and led some critics to compare her, rather prematurely, to Balzac.

In her latest novel, set in wartime Wall Street, Miss Stead...

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