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What Maisie Knew (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 Oct 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions; New edition edition (5 Oct. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840224126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840224122
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 1.3 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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)

"A brilliant social comedy seen wholly from a child’s point of view, this is a dazzling technical feat that, as always with James, deepens as it develops ― like the life of the child herself. An exhilarating prelude to the great novels of his famous late phase" (Alan Hollinghurst New York Times)

"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) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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"What Masie Knew" is not a book to be approaches casually. It is a difficult work which demands close attention to detail and the prose is often quite convoluted--sometimes unnecessarily so. We see a young girl being used as a weapon by her estranged parents and even by her step-parents. The novel is filled with quite unlikeable, selfish, mercenary, morally corrupt adults. But somehow Masie survives.

F. R. Leavis in his critical work "The Great Tradition" makes an interesting observation about this:

" . . . the consummately 'done' theme of "What Masie Knew" is the incorruptible innocence of Masie; innocence that not merely preserves itself in what might have seemed irresistibly corrupting circumstances, but can even generate decency out of the egotistic squalors of adult personal relations."

Looked at in this way, What Masie Knew has a reasonably positive message. Masie has shown herself to be a survivor and the feeling I get is that she will continue so.
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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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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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Henry James style of writting takes some getting used to but it's worth the bother of reading his discriptions of moods and facial expressions. The story about a very young girl who has the unenviable position of two parents, two step parents who sometimes want her and sometimes dont. Thank goodness for Mrs Wix the governess. Looking forward to seeing this when it is released on film
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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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Not the easiest of books to read... Was a bit of a slog, but it was worth it. It left me feeling like I didn't really know any of the characters very well & maybe that's how they all felt. Intrigued to see what recent film of this book is like....
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