What Maisie Knew, Paperback
2 out of 5 (1 rating)


With an 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9781840224122


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I've only 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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