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What Maisie Knew (Wordsworth Classics) [Paperback]

Henry James
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 2002 Wordsworth Classics

This Wordsworth Edition includes an exclusive Introduction by Pat Righelato, University of Reading.

The child of parents who divorce, remarry and then embark on adulterous affairs, Maisie Farange survives by her intelligence and spirit.

For all its sombre theme of childhood innocence exposed to a corrupted adult world, this novel is one of James's comic masterpieces. The outrageous behaviour of the characters on the seedy fringes of the English upper class is conveyed with wit and relish. The dual perspective of a sophisticated narrator richly appreciative of the absurdities of the adult sexual merry-go-round and the candid vision of Maisie, 'rebounding' from one parent to another like a 'shuttlecock', together create an 'associational magic'.

Strangely, unexpectedly, from so much that is tawdry, comes a tale of moral energy and subtlety. James's foresight was in understanding the modernity of his subject, which is even more relevant today in the twenty-first century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (7 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840224126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840224122
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,250 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


"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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 19 Oct 2006
By G. Stephens VINE VOICE
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
5.0 out of 5 stars What Maisie tell us 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
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible, don't bother 1 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'veonly read a couple of books by Henry James, but I've enjoyed them. What Maisie Knew was a chore. The premise is horrible - a child used by her divorced parents in a horrible game of revenge, forced into an adult frame of mind she barely understands but somehow manages to embrace. There were long passages where nothing happened that were described by James in verbose and repetitive language. It should not have taken me 11 days to get to the end, but I found myself doing anything and everything rather than sitting down to read this monstrosity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than the movie 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking 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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5.0 out of 5 stars successful adaptation of the original novel 2 May 2014
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The adaptation to modern times in America manages to represent the feeling and message of the Henry James original surprisingly well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly Maise 18 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Beautiful prose, and very rewarding read.

To see the world through six year old Maisie's eyes was a revelation.

She was led and yet in the end she was in charge, in a funny sort of way.

She did indeed know everything.

P Coxon
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3.0 out of 5 stars Divorce 27 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story is about the social impact of divorce or the breakdown of marriage to accommodate personal agendas. It is relevant today.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious book, don't bother
This was a book club suggestion and so struggled through to the end for that reason, otherwise would have given up early on. Poorly written, repetititive, boring. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Tilly T
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 months ago by carospen
2.0 out of 5 stars What Maisie Knew
I bought this for my Kindle because my reading group was to discuss it. I didn't enjoy it, nor did I finish it, which is unusual for me, I found the basic story line deeply... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jenniconn
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy Read
I did not find this an easy read at all, got fed up with the triangle between parents and Maisie. Sorry can't recommend it.
Published 11 months ago by Margaret Fraser
3.0 out of 5 stars Very long winded
Used to really like Henry James and I love the idea of this book but it is really difficult to follow the convoluted thought. I must be getting old!
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. E. A. Carlin
2.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read!
Having seen the recent (excellent) film of the book, I thought I must read it. Unfortunately, it is very hard work. The writing is dense upon the page and very 19th century. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mazza B
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
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. Read more
Published 11 months ago by ann morris
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not easy!
I recently saw and enjoyed the film "What Maisie Knew" so thought I would read the book on which it had been based. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jan Colmey
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