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What Maisie Knew (Classics) Paperback – 28 Oct 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432480
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,019,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henry James was born in 1843 in Washington Place, New York, of Scottish and Irish ancestry. His father was a prominent theologian and philosopher and his elder brother, William, is also famous as a philosopher. He attended schools in New York and later in London, Paris and Geneva, entering the Law School at Harvard in 1862. In 1865 he began to contribute reviews and short stories to American journals. In 1875, after two prior visits to Europe, he settled for a year in Paris, where he met Flaubert, Turgenev and other literary figures. However, the next year he moved to London, where he became so popular in society that in the winter of 1878-9 he confessed to accepting 107 invitations. In 1898 he left London and went to live at Lamb House, Rye, Sussex. Henry James became a naturalized citizen in 1915, was awarded the Order of Merit and died in 1916.

In addition to many short stories, plays, books of criticism, autobiography and travel, he wrote some twenty novels, the first published being Roderick Hudson (1875). They include The Europeans, Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima, The Tragic Muse, The Spoils of Poynton, The Awkward Age, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.


Product Description

Review

"James' finest working of his preoccupation with the theme of innocence corrupted... James is the master of making what is not said the most important thing on the page" (Kate Atkinson)

"Contains some of his best comedy and some of his most melancholy insights...embodies everything that James excelled at in fiction" (Paul Theroux)

"Henry James is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare is in the history of poetry" (Graham Greene)

"Perfect" (F. R. Leavis)

"An ugly little comedy" (Henry James) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'A very modern story about aimless lives and messy marriages' Paul Theroux --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The litigation had seemed interminable and had in fact been complicated; but by the decision on the appeal the judgement of the divorce-court was confirmed as to the assignment of the child. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By G. Stephens VINE VOICE on 19 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is another classic from the James collection. What Maisie Knew is a masterpiece- the reader has an ant's eye view of the adult world through Maisie's eyes. Essentially we witness the violent pumelling of a young child by her parent's manipulative scheming; she is used throughout as a go-between and epitomises,sadly, the position many children find themselves in when a divorce is handled terribly by parents. Maisie becomes intertwined in an adult world of bitterness, violence, sordid affairs and irresponsibility yet luckily, the tale is saved from the depths of sordid tragedy by the lovely Mrs. Wix who takes Maisie under her wing, so to speak, and shows real affection. James very much enforces the notion of parental responsibility in this incredibly poignant tale of a little girl.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Nina-Jo Rees on 7 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At a dinner party in 1892, Henry James heard about an unusual divorce settlement in which the child was not, as was usual given to one parent to bring up, but was to alternate between them. Interested in the potentialities of this situation, the seed thus planted grew via a short story, into a novel published in 1897.

The narrative voice telling the story is filtered largely through the child Maisie's perceptions of events and allows her to be the innocent observer, to see all the moral inadequacies, failings and deviousness of adult life without any clear understanding of what it all really means. The reader, however, older, wiser and no doubt more cynical than Maisie, can see the reasons for her perpetual changes of residence between parents, step-parents, nurse and governesses and all the games they play with her life and happiness, for what it really is. This is novel is about the lust and the selfishness that James perceived to be at the centre of London life at the turn of the century.

It is a humorous, warm story, despite the subject matter and it is written with a wit and lightness of touch that allows the reader to observe these deviousand morally frail grown-ups who exert power over Maisie as not without charm. They themselves are buffeted by forces beyond their control. Money, or the lack of it, is central to the experience of all the main characters, all of whom feel entitled to be rich or acquire riches through their own sexual attractions.

The delightful Sir Claude who has real affection for Maisie, the narrowly moral Mrs Wix and Maisie herself, are all great comic creations. The style, as always with James is demanding, slow paced and needs to be read slowly. The pay-off however, is a novel of great richness and satisfaction for the reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ann morris on 6 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I decided to read (or maybe re-read) What Maisie Knew after seeing the recent film, mainly to see how true the film was to the book. Have enjoyed Henry James in the past, but found this book to be almost unreadable - so many sentences needed reading more than once to try and make sense of them - and abandoned it half way through.

I'd take the film every time, despite a typically Hollywood revised ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jane Eyre on 11 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting to compare with the recent film. The book shows everything through the child's eyes and lets one draw one's own conclusions about the other characters. The film turned it into yet another story about how a (pretty) child can draw a couple of adults together and help them find happiness. Typical Christmas film stuff. The book is much more disturbing -- it's hard to tell whether, at the end, Maisie is in the happiest possible situation or in one that will be stifling and unfair to her developing intelligence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nelsdorter on 1 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like to read a Henry James novel every year or so: I love the clarity of his thought and the ethical dilemmas that he presents to his characters (and his readers!).
This short novel is incredibly modern in its subject-matter: a little girl, fruit of a loveless marriage who is neglected by both her parents. Maisie is a very attrattive child to the reader: never precocious or irritating. James pulls off the incredible feat of an unmarried, middle-aged man writing from a child's prespective, and his writing is both believable and moving.
Read it and be prepared to have your heart broken!
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By Hugh Sedon on 16 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable story of an acrimonious divorce seen through the eyes of a child. Maisie is shared between her vituperative parents. Both are cavalier in regard to their responsibilities; both re-marry unsuccessfully; affairs and liaisons flourish, and yet Maisie's essential goodness survives.

An excellent morality tale.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Louise the book worm on 26 July 2013
Format: Paperback
I've been wondering for years how to write about a Henry James novel. Whenever I try and describe his books to friends, I sow discouragement and disinclination wherever I go, failing to telegraph the magical beauty that lies in all James' great works: the meaning, the observational intensity, the humane humour and sadness, the flashes of extraordinary insight into what makes people tick.

"What Maisie Knew" is the story of a little girl through whose eyes we watch, with sadness, wry smiles and occasional horror and trepidation, the machinations of the various adults around her, who are embroiled in her parents' epic love battles, deconstructed so that its component parts become essentially puppets in a punch and judy show, watched with intelligence and mystery by the child. The moments of real love or kindness are so rare as to be extremely touching: it's above all a tragicomedy, a satire.

The virtuoso quality of his prose thrills with the vibrato of his grasp on the myriad ways people find to communicate whatever they mean to say. In exquisite, hyper-real language he forces you again and again to look - and you see - oh, too much. Everything hidden and visible, everything spoken and unspoken. Gauzy veils of meaning, subtext and intent, corruption and beauty, reveal themselves woozily under his masterful touch, at every turn, in each exquisitely painted, impressionistic scene. They are loaded, nonetheless, with sharp little stings for the unwary (who might believe they're along merely for an elegantly pretty ride in a period drama).

That can make for an intense, almost physical reading experience that sometimes leaves me groping my way through the story, enjoying the experience while simultaneously somewhat exhausted by the effort of keeping up with it.
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