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


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 childhood, there is a savage comedy that owes much to Dickens.

But for his portrayal of the child's capacity for intelligent 'wonder', James summons all the subtlety he devotes elsewhere to his most celebrated adult protagonists.

Neglected and exploited by everyone around her, Maisie inspires James to dwell with extraordinary acuteness on the things that may pass between adult and child.

In addition to a new introduction, this edition of the novel offers particularly detailed notes, bibliography, and a list of variant readings.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


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It's a difficult book but genius in construction. To me, the subject matter that was more cringe-inducing than the writing. It's written in third person, yet purely from the POV of Maisie, who thinks she knows a lot but doesn't because she's a child, surrounded by manipulative and selfish adults who think they are worldly and cunning and know nothing of themselves or other people. It's about knowledge, lack of, gaining of, and it takes a while to get to the point where we can understand the novel. This doesn't lessen my love for Henry James. (Kind of increased it, actually.)

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