What Maisie Knew
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What Maisie Knew

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What Maisie Knew is Henry James's damning portrait of adultery, jealousy and possession on the decadent fringe of English upper-class society. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Christopher Ricks.

After her parents' bitter divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself turned into a 'little feathered shuttlecock' to be swatted back and forth by her selfish mother, Ida, and her vain father, Beale, who value her only as a means of provoking one another. When both take lovers and remarry, Maisie - solitary, observant and wise beyond her years - is drawn into an entangled adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal, until she is at last able to cooperate in choosing her own future. As time conquers innocence, Henry James masterfully portrays Maisie's consciousness developing from simple childlike 'wonder' to a rich, morally-scrupulous adult mind.

This edition of What Maisie Knew includes a chronology, suggested further reading, three contemporary reviews, Henry James's own commentaries on the work, and an introduction that examines how children figured in his predecessors' novels, and how war is waged between the sexes in What Maisie Knew.

Henry James (1843-1916) son of a prominent theologian, and brother to the philosopher William James, was one of the most celebrated novelists of the fin-de-siecle. In addition to many short stories, plays, books of criticism, biography and autobiography, and much travel writing, he wrote some twenty novels.
His novella 'Daisy Miller' (1878) established him as a literary figure on both sides of the Atlantic, and his other novels in Penguin Classics include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Awkward Age (1899), The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904)

If you enjoyed What Maisie Knew, you might like Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Embodies everything that James excelled at in fiction'
Paul Theroux
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 134 x 200 x 26mm | 158.76g
  • PENGUIN CLASSICS
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141441372
  • 9780141441375
  • 95,447

Review Text

"Reading Henry James is like putting a new faculty to the test. This is the true morality."-Anita Brookner
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Review quote

-Reading Henry James is like putting a new faculty to the test. This is the true morality.---Anita Brookner "Reading Henry James is like putting a new faculty to the test. This is the true morality."--Anita Brookner Reading Henry James is like putting a new faculty to the test. This is the true morality. Anita Brookner"
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About Henry James

Henry James was born on April 15th 1843 in New York. He was the brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James. He spent a great deal of his life in Europe, especially England. He is best known for his cosmopolitan and often haunting portraits of European and American life. His most famous fictional works include The Portrait of a Lady (1881), What Maisie Knew (1897), The Turn of the Screw (1898), The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). He also wrote literary criticism, most famously The Art of the Fiction (1884). He died on February 28th 1916.

Christopher Ricks is Professor of the Humanities at Boston University, where he has taught since 1986, and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute. He was formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge. He has written books on Milton, Tennyson, Keats, Eliot, Beckett and Bob Dylan, and he has edited the poems of Tennyson, the early uncollected poems of Eliot, the selected poems of James Henry, and the poems of Samuel Menashe, as well as two anthologies.
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Rating details

4,413 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 17% (763)
4 32% (1,408)
3 31% (1,390)
2 14% (614)
1 5% (238)
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