What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

3.4 (4,641 ratings by Goodreads)
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The inspiration for a new film starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgard, Steve Coogan, and Onata Aprile
After her parents bitter divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled between her selfish mother and vain father, who value her only as a means for provoking each other. Maisie solitary, observant, and wise beyond her years is drawn into an increasingly entangled adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal until she is finally compelled to choose her own future. Published in 1897 as Henry James was experimenting with narrative technique and fascinated by the idea of the child s-eye view, "What Maisie Knew" is a subtle yet devastating portrayal of an innocent adrift in a corrupt society."
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Product details

  • Paperback | 307 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 18mm | 220g
  • United States
  • English
  • Media tie-in
  • Reprint
  • 0143124633
  • 9780143124634
  • 871,885

Review quote

"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 (1843 1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. He spent his early life in America and studied in Geneva, London and Paris during his adolescence to gain the worldly experience so prized by his father. He lived in Newport, went briefly to Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines.
In 1869, and then in 1872 74, he paid visits to Europe and began his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875 he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola, and wrote The American (1877). In December 1876 he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. Other famous works include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassima (1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1905 he revisited the United States and wrote The American Scene (1907).
During his career he also wrote many works of criticism and travel. Although old and ailing, he threw himself into war work in 1914, and in 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject. In 1916 King George V conferred the Order of Merit on him. He died in London in February 1916."
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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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Rating details

4,641 ratings
3.4 out of 5 stars
5 17% (799)
4 32% (1,462)
3 32% (1,469)
2 14% (660)
1 5% (251)

Our customer reviews

My Take: What Maisie Knew was written in the late 1800's, but the subject matter is as timely as ever. Maisie is a young girl who is a victim of her parents' bitter divorce. With custody split between the two, she is repeatedly used as a weapon against the other. Example: Her father tells her to tell her mother that she is a nasty, horrid pig (not Maisie, Maisie's mom Ida). You can feel the confusion and bemusement of this child as she tries to puzzle out what is right and what is wrong - in order to avoid repeating things that are "bad", she plays dumb. Almost all of the selfish adults around her expose her to intrigues and conversations that are not fit for a child's ears and eyes. Her later governess, Mrs. Wix, feels that the adults around her have skewed her moral compass. I originally read "What Maisie Knew" in (high school/college?) - some time ago :). Back then, I had a difficult time with Henry James' tangled prose. On this re-read, I still had a difficult time with a few passages - on these, I simply passed rather than re-reading. Example: In the evening upstairs they had another strange sensation, as to which Maisie could not afterwards have told you whether it was bang in the middle or quite at the beginning that her companion sounded with fresh emphasis the note of the moral sense. What mattered was merely that she did exclaim, and again, as at first appeared, most disconnectedly: 'God help me, it does seem to peep out!' Oh, the queer confusions that had wooed it at last to such peeping! None so queer, however, as the words of woe, and it might verily be said of rage, in which the poor lady bewailed the tragic end of her own rich ignorance. James' rhetoric was voluble even by Victorian standards. For example, a famous falling-out between James and H. G. Wells was precipitated by Wells being quoted saying the following about Henry James' writing: "He splits his infinitives and fills them up with adverbial stuffing. He presses the passing colloquialism into his service. His vast paragraphs sweat and struggle; they could not sweat and elbow and struggle more if God himself was the processional meaning to which they sought to come. And all for tales of nothingness It is leviathan retrieving pebbles. It is a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost, even at the cost of its dignity, upon picking up a pea which has got into a corner of its den. Most things, it insists, are beyond it, but it can, at any rate, modestly, and with an artistic singleness of mind, pick up that pea." Fortunately, in this novel, those types of passages don't predominate. If you can wade through these instances of hyperbole, the STORY and the characters underneath DO dominate. There is a movie (trailer below) that is a contemporary re-telling of this novel. As always, I recommend reading the book first, then seeing the movie. Pick this one up to brush up on a classic with subject matter that is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. QUOTES: ... the only link binding her to either parent was this lamentable fact of her being a ready vessel for bitterness, a deep little porcelain cup in which biting acids could be mixed. She was in short introduced to life with a liberality in which the selfishness of others found its account ... The eveil they had the gift of thinking, or pretending to think, of each other, they poured into her little fravely gazing sould as into a boundless receptacle ... She puzzled out with imperfect signs, but with a prodigious spirit, that she had been a centre of hatred and a messenger of insult, and that everything was bad because she had been employed to make it so. Writing: 3.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4 out of 5 stars Characters: 4 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 3.5 out 5 stars BOOK RATING: 3.75 out of 5 starsshow more
by Julie Smith
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