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What Maisie Knew

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,738 Ratings  ·  428 Reviews
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 enta
Paperback, Movie Tie-In Edition, 307 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Penguin Books (first published 1897)
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Paul Bryant
Feb 20, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Well, I told myself to review more of my 5 star books instead of taking the easy way out projectile sneering at some grisly two star efforts. but it's hard. There are some brilliant Henry James reviews dotted around, and this won't be one of those. I think there's a point in some of these long, long literary careers (it's true of long musical careers too) where you've followed the writer out of the early period into the majestic middle period and you know the late period is going to give you a m ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Years ago, I read somewhere, perhaps in Graves' Goodbye to All of That, or a biography on Ford Madox Ford, where it was recorded (a tricky word if it's Graves) that Ford, while out in the trenches, read and greatly admired Henry James' What Maisie Knew. What stuck in my mind was the fact that Ford (as I remember it) thought it a great treatment of evil and children. Ford, a quirky but fine critic, could be a critical bear when it came to James, so the fact that he singled this novel out for prai ...more
Richard Derus
Book Circle Reads 43

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Book Description: What Maisie Knew (1897) represents one of James's finest reflections on the rites of passage from wonder to knowledge, and the question of their finality. The child of violently divorced parents, Maisie Farange opens her eyes on a distinctly modern world. Mothers and fathers keep changing their partners and names, while she herself becomes the pretext for all sorts of adult sexual intrigue.

In this classic tale of the death of childh
Nov 15, 2012 Rosemary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
When I saw that this book was about a young girl whose parents divorce and both remarry, and how she is shuttled between the various adults that have some reponsibility for her, I wondered why it wasn't in the Ultimate Teen Book Guide in place of 'Daisy Miller'. But the reason for that became clear as soon as I started reading it.

The language is very difficult, with sentences that go on for line after line without ever arriving at an obvious meaning. I was often getting to the end of a paragrap
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
In the annals of classic fiction I have encountered some truly monstrous parents (some of the parents in Austen or Dickens certainly come to mind), but the mother and father of little Maisie Farange must surely be the worst. They are truly beyond despicable, and if I could reach into the pages of Henry James's What Maisie Knew, I'd throttle them both! Okay, now that I've gotten that off of my chest, perhaps I can provide an objective review of this novel. What Maisie Knew was written by Henry Ja ...more
Sep 27, 2011 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general
I hate Henry James with an eternal and fiery passion. I rarely hate a book utterly; I hate this book. It's actually worse than The Bostonians, which I would not have imagined possible. It's just not necessary to write sentences two hundred words long with four semicolons and eight commas. It's just not. Especially not EVERY sentence.

It's like reading an impossibly uninteresting Jane Austen novel that's been babelfished into German and then back. I could only read it for ten minutes at a time, be
Linda Robinson
Dec 02, 2013 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought I was over a mild obsession with Henry James, but not so much. Having bumped into the Toronto Film Festival and a movie adaptation of What Maisie Knew, I got the book. And was transported back to college and my infatuation with James and his marvelous voyeuristic peerings into emotional (sexual) repression. Freud was obsessed with it. James as well. I thought Turn of the Screw was the best example before today. Oh blimey, that marvelous scene when The Governess first conjures Peter Quint ...more
Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!*
Apparently I forgot to add this at the time I was reading it, oops. Well, I read this for a class about a month ago, and ... I didn't like it very much. I'll write an actual review at some point.
Duffy Pratt
Apr 07, 2012 Duffy Pratt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
James has a knack both for creating monsters and weaklings. This book seemed to contain nothing but, and depending on how you look at them, each its possible to see each character as being a bit of both. On the surface, it all drives towards a big moral choice for Masie. But I keep thinking that the choice is ultimately false. There's so much baseness underlying each of her options, that it was hard for me to see it as a moral choice at all. Did she do the right thing? Did she even end up with t ...more
Apr 22, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 t
Aug 21, 2011 Terence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Steve's GR review
I read The Ambassadors and The Portrait of a Lady sometime in the early ‘90s, when I was in graduate school. They passed through my consciousness with nary a ripple; the impression that I carried away was…boredom. I wasn’t able to engage with any of the characters, and the elite social milieu of late Victorian/Edwardian England wasn’t of interest to me as such (give me a W. Somerset Maugham tale and it’s a different story). Recently, and after much mental to-ing and fro-ing, I picked up an audio ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1897, What Maisie Knew is a novel of Henry James’ late middle period, and it presages many of the characteristics of his great late novels. As the story opens, Maisie Farange is about five years old, and the acrimonious marriage of her parents Beale and Ida is over. The divorce settlement stipulates that each will be given equal custody of Maisie, six months at a time. From the onset they use Maisie to torment each other, first trying to deny the former partner any access to her and ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, book-club
After finishing this book, I recognize, in retrospect, that it's a thorough and insightful look at the psyche of a young girl, fought over by her divorced parents and, ultimately, her step-parents, yet while I was still in the process of reading it, I could hardly stand to keep turning the pages, perhaps due, in part, to the sheer number of phrases and, by extension, commas that Henry James packed into every sentence. (See what I did there?)
I found this a disturbing story, particularly because I was concerned that the stepfather, Sir Claude, was a paedophile, but also of course because of the appalling attitude of both of Maisie's parents, who considered her to be a nuisance unless she was used as a weapon by one against the other. A distinctly peculiar story.

Henry James was badly in need of a good editor to sort out his long meandering sentences. He really makes his readers work hard to grasp his meaning!
Dec 07, 2008 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Try as I might, I just couldn't get into what I thought was going to be right up my alley. I blame that partly on circumstances -- I do much of my reading on the subway, and you just can't read James like that: a short trip alone will get you through a mere paragraph which you'll have gone over three or four times trying to even comprehend. So yes, I'll give James another chance when I can read him under more favorable conditions, but I also find his style needlessly cumbersome and obscure rathe ...more
Mark Stephenson
Dec 14, 2009 Mark Stephenson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tough but very rewarding read. Maisie has the unenviable lot of being born to a handsome but worldly couple unready for either marriage or parenthood and is used by both parents as fodder for their contentious divorce and subsequent perpetual warfare. One might think that this would be a very dark book ( it was written just after The Turn of the Screw) but that would be without reckoning with Maisie, who is a comic marvel, a little genius and ultimately a heroine. Some say she is a bit of a se ...more
How to describe this book; different, unusual, interesting, even disturbing on some level. Young Maisie Farange has, possibly, the two worst parents in the history of literature, Dickens characters notwithstanding. Her two step parents, from opposite sides of the parental marriages, were somewhat better, but still lacking from my point of view. Her governess, Mrs. Wix, was the most responsible adult in the book, certainly the best one to have custody of Maisie. I would like to read about Maisie ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Diana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Правдив портрет на английското общество и нравите му в края на 19-ти век и история на бързото и болезнено съзряване на едно дете - това е накратко "Какво знаеше Мейзи", към която подходих с много големи очаквания. И може би щяха да се оправдаят, ако книгата беше събрана в максимум половината от сегашния си обем.
Мейзи е момиченце с открадното от възрастните детство, използвано вместо разменна монета, средство за изкупление, оръжие за саморазправа, отмъщение и постигане на цели. Непрекъснато прехв
I was angry while reading this book. Children forced to act as adults, because the adults in their lives act like children. Maisie learned at an early age how to survive divorce. Her parents stole her childhood from her, by making her a pawn in their disputes. Then they chose other people to influence Maisie who were just as bad. I liked the book, but had to get used to the dialogue of the times. Good book to read abôut how not to handle a divorce with children involved.
Sep 13, 2007 Tad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone.
I recommend this book to anyone who cares about the craft of novel writing--or the ability of a middle-aged man to imagine himself as a young girl.

I learned that James is brilliant. Maise has the hots for Sir Claude. And most parents are as awful as we always imagined them to be when we were children.
Dec 26, 2012 Sinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
During my tenure as a student at the university, I read my fair share of 19th century authors. While the 19th century was not my favorite time period—I took as many medieval literature classes as I could and devoured Viking/Icelandic sagas—Henry James was one of the authors that kept reoccurring. Many of my professors liked his work; however, without fail, we would always read Daisy Miller. So, even while I had a little experience with James, I never had the chance to read one of his novels. Whe ...more


"Convoluted, incomprehensible circumlocutions" is how I have previously described and decried Henry James' later style.I had to and wanted to read "The Wings of the Dove" at University in a special James Unit that I chose to do.It too was in this latter period.

I read "What Maisie Knew" some years ago now and recall it being a hard slog.Was a bit aghast to see that this edition has a few hundred pages and I thought it was only a bit bigger than a novella...OUCH!!!

This book is the story of a child and how she is mistreated by all the adults around her. Consider it the prequel to the mistreated child with dead/absent/useless parents stereotype that is so common in kids and YA lit today. Well and Jane Eyre.

However, what kills this book for me is James's prose. Since it is about the changing mindset of a child, one would think that a clearer, less complex prose would better demonstrate her innocence and childlike nature. But no, its all 'The objurgation for
Ben Loory
Dec 03, 2013 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Captain? What Captain?"

"Why when we met you in the Gardens-- the one who took me to sit with him. That was exactly what
he said."

Ida let it come on so far as to appear for an instant to pick up a lost thread. "What on earth did he say?"

Maisie faltered supremely, but supremely she brought it out. "What you say, mamma-- that you're so good."

"What 'I' say?" Ida slowly rose, keeping her eyes on her child, and the hand that had busied itself in her purse conformed at her side and amid the folds
Jan 01, 2016 Tamsen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks, Henry James, for writing such a terrible book that I literally struggled to read this. I hated to pick it up, loved to put it down, had to check it out beyond the number of times allowed by the library, finally settling for becoming overdue, and now have something like $10 in library fines.

The only way we're even is if you send me my $10.

Another reviewer says: "Apparently, Lawrence Durrell posed this question: "Would you rather read Henry James or be crushed to death by a great weight?
Jun 21, 2009 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An only child of divorced parents is passed around among half a dozen adults of varying relationships to her (nannies, parents' new lovers, second spouses), all of whom are unfailingly selfish and incapable of framing her well-being in any terms other than what suits them. Admittedly anyone in the world who claims to be acting in a purely disinterested manner on any occasion is probably not telling the truth but this presents a notably pessimistic view of human nature. Written in 1897, close to ...more
Juli Rahel
I borrowed this book from a friend because I had read about its interesting narrative in David Lodge's 'The Art of Fiction'. I haven't read a lot of Henry James yet, so I was definitely in for a challenge.

Maisie is a very interesting main character. The story is told from her perspective, which means that as a reader you get her interpretation of situations and people. Yet still James tells you enough to be able to know what Maisie doesn't understand. As she grows up, her perspective changes an
Dina Goluza
Apr 03, 2016 Dina Goluza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read, engleski, 2016
Nisam baš neki poseban fan Henry Jamesa niti njegovog stila pisanja ali mi je ovdje tema bila jako interesantna. Što s djecom u slučaju razvoda roditelja? U ovom slučaju se radi o jednom djetetu koje je nažalost neželjeni "prtljag" svojih roditelja i koje sazrijeva prije vremena.
A very small book, tracing the impact of her parents divorce on Maisie. They think their arrangements are 'civilised'; her reality is something different. She's the only one with any dignity.
Mar 16, 2015 Griselda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On reaching the end of this book, the only thing to do is to turn back to the beginning and start again. As the dynamic among the adult characters changes, and as Maisie's perception of events develops, the reader constantly finds the rug being pulled out from under him. At a pace that makes the reader giddy, James has his characters lurching from one moral standpoint to another, with poor old Maisie left piggy in the middle. At the end, we are left wondering quite how we got there; we need to l ...more
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Around the Year i...: What Maisie Knew, by Henry James 1 10 May 27, 2016 09:40PM  
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Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the ...more
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“She took refuge on the firm ground of fiction, through which indeed there curled the blue river of truth.” 23 likes
“Everything had something behind it: life was like a long corridor with rows of closed doors.” 9 likes
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