Book Review — What Maisie Knew

Title:  What Maisie Knew
Author:  Henry James
Genre:  Classics
Pages:  Oversize paperback, 272
Published:  2002 (What Maisie Knew was originally published September 17, 1897)
Publisher:  Modern Library
Opening Lines: "The litigation had seemed interminable and had in face been complicated; but by the decision on the appeal to the judgement of the divorce-court was confirmed as to the assignment of the child."
Rating:



"In the aftermath of an acrimonious divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled back and forth between her father and mother, both of them amoral and monstrously self-involved. After her parents find new spouses—and after the new spouses find themselves drawn to each other, as much for Maisie's sake as their own—Maisie feels even more misplaced. As she observes the world of adults and their adulteries, and finds herself in the position to decide her own fate, Henry James's rendering of her child's-eye view—his depiction of what precisely Maisie knows—draws the reader into this scathing satire of social mores and insightful meditations on familial dependence."

~ Jacket copy



Thoughts:  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.  When I discovered that What Maisie Knew was being turning into a film, I decided it was finally time to settle down with something other than a short story.  And, even though it was daunting, it ended up being well worth the effort.

The book opens with a vicious divorce between Beale and Ida Farange.  From brief details given, it seemed like a circus of mud-slinging.  And at the centre of it all is their little daughter, Maisie.  The court decides that she is to split her time between her parents.  Six months are spent with her mother; six months with her father.  And, through all of this, both of her parents decide to use her as their own personal weapon.  Sending her to the other parent with little "gems" and messages, Maisie cannot help being a carrier pigeon for her parents' continued hostility.  As things progress, each of her parents remarry.  And, from all appearances, her step-parents love her, care for her, and give her more love than either of her parents.  However, being the people that they are, her parents decide to partake in adulterous affairs with other people, and, whether it is full intentional or not, they involve Maisie.  All the while, her step-parents are drawn together out of their mutual love for the child.  Instead of being an innocent child, Maisie is thrust into an adult world of intrigue, drama, and failed relationships.

From the first page to the last, this book is heart rending!  It appears as though Maisie was merely an accessory to her parents.  She was constantly used as a way to send hurtful and damning messages to each parent, they wanted her as their own information gatherer, and so on.  Every horrible thing you can imagine, her parents made her do.  And, unless she had some juicy tidbit about the other parent, neither parent was interested in her company, and she was cast off to governesses.  When her parents do speak with her concerning other things, she is subjected to horrible psychological abuse.

Through all of this, Maisie is struggling with her position in the world, her family, and her role.  While she loves Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale—and the idea of them being together—she wants her parents to want her and to be a part of their lives.  At every turn, she is cast aside by the people who are supposed to love her the most.  When each parent individually asks the child to come with them, it hurt to read that Maisie—in the maturity and knowledge gained from watching her parents' self-destructive and self-involved behavior—knew they didn't really want her but where just reassuring themselves that they did try to put on a show that they wanted her. 

Honestly, this book is extremely hard to discuss without giving everything away.  Suffice it to say, this book obviously spans a number of years, and Maisie grows older as the story goes on.  However, while James does not tell the specific passing of time, it is obvious in Maisie's widening of knowledge, her field of vision, and her ability to learn and manipulate the games being played around her that she is aging.  While this book follows Maisie, it also seems to be a huge statement from James about parents refusing to take responsibility and the decay of the system of marriage and what people will do/sacrifice in order to keep themselves happy.  At the centre of the whirlwind of her parents' divorce and multiple love affairs, Mrs. Wix's batty nature, and Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale's relationship, is a young girl who has been cast aside by her parents and desperately wants someplace, someone to belong to.

The finally chapter of this book really brings home the reality that Maisie lives in.  Furthermore, it also uses Mrs. Wix as James' mouthpiece to attack the behavior exhibited by both sets of parents and voice his feelings concerning the parental role.  And, while I understand Maisie's final choice, I still find myself wishing that Sir Claude had been willing to do as the child had asked.  

Current Pages: 16,282
Current Progress:

55/50 books


Much love, Sinn

No comments:

Post a Comment

I comment in the thread. Please subscribe to receive my comments and the things other awesome people have to say ^_^

Search

Categories

1 skull (4) 100 followers giveaway (2) 14 (1) 2 skulls (18) 2011 in review (1) 2012 (1) 3 skulls (21) 3 stars (1) 4 skulls (24) 4 stars (1) 5 skulls (44) 5 stars (1) 50 books in 2011 (1) 5skulls (1) a court of mist and fury (1) a court of thorns and roses (1) a local habitation (1) a perfect blood (1) a rush of wings (1) abuse (1) adam neville (1) adrian phoenix (2) adults only (3) after the ending (1) alien invasion (1) alien invation (1) aliens (3) aliens: earth hive (1) ally condie (2) amanda ashby (1) amy lukavics (2) anastasia (1) andrea cremer (1) annie walls (1) antebellum (1) anthology (1) apocalypse (2) apocalypse watch 2012 (9) arc (2) ashfall (1) audio book (8) author interview (3) autobiography (1) award (3) bag of bones (1) batman (1) bdsm (5) beast fable (1) beautiful creatures (1) beautiful darkness (1) beauty and the beast (1) becca fitzpatrick (1) best of 2011 (1) bethany griffin (1) bird box (1) bisexuality (1) bite club (1) black magic sanction (1) blog award (1) blog layouts (1) blogoversary (2) blood rights (1) blood rights vampires kristen painter (1) blood rites (1) bloodfever (1) bob marley (1) Book Beginnings (2) book blogger hop (5) book challenge (7) book club (1) book review (145) book review suzanne collins (5) book review urban fantasy (2) book reviw (1) book tour (6) brenna yovanoff (1) brian keene (1) bullet for my valentine (1) business (1) c.e. murphy (1) caitlin r. kiernan (1) cameron dokey (1) Candace Welsh (1) carrie ryan (3) carrie vaughn (2) catching fire (1) catholic (1) censorship (1) charlaine harris (2) charlene teglia (1) charlie higson (1) cherie feather (1) cherokee nattion (1) Chic and Sassy Designs (1) children of paranoia (1) china (1) chivalry (1) chris wooding (1) christopher moore (1) cinder (1) cinderella (2) civil war (1) claimed by the wolf (1) claire thompson (1) classics (3) comfort food (1) comfort foods (1) comic (1) coming of age (1) commenting (1) contagious (1) contemporary (3) conversation (1) courtly lover (1) Courtney Crumin and the Night Things (1) courtney summers (1) coyote (1) coyote blue (1) craig johnson (1) crossed (1) crow (1) cuckoo song (1) cyborg (1) D/s (1) dan wells (1) dana fredsti (1) dante (1) dare (1) dark fantasy (1) darkfever (1) dathan auerbach (1) daughter of smoke and bone (1) daughters unto devils (1) David Clement-Davies (1) david hahn (1) david oliver relin (1) david tischman (1) days of blood & starlight (1) dd barant (1) dead (1) dead beat (1) dead light (1) dead on the delta (1) dead until dark (1) deadly night (1) dean koontz (2) dearly departed (1) death masks (1) demon hunts (2) demon possession (1) demons (3) devil (1) diana rowland (3) dirty little secret (1) disaster (1) discount armageddon (1) discussion (1) disliking a book (1) disqus (1) DMC: Devil May Cry (1) dnf skull (1) dreamfever (1) dresden files (3) dust and decay (1) dying bites (1) dystopian fiction (6) e-book (1) e.l. james (3) eat slay love (1) edgar allan poe (1) education (1) elissa wall (1) elizabeth reuter (1) ellen potter (1) England (1) erotica (10) even white trash zombies get the blues (1) exorcism (1) f. paul wilson (1) fae (6) faefever (1) faeries (2) fahrenheit 451 (1) fairies (1) fairy tales (2) fantasy (5) feed (1) fiction (6) fiction with zombies (5) fifty shades darker (1) fifty shades freed (1) fifty shades of grey (1) fighting to survive (1) film tie-in (1) fire baptized (1) first days (1) first days: as the world dies (1) flds (1) flesh and bone (1) follow friday (36) following (1) fool moon (1) frances hardinge (1) FrankenDom (1) frostbitten (1) funny (1) furiously happy (1) gabriel's inferno (1) gabriel's rapture (1) game reboot (1) gargoyle (1) garth ennis (1) georgina kincaid (1) gerald's game (1) gfc (1) ghost hunters (1) ghost shadow (1) ghost story (2) ghost trackers (1) ghost walk (1) ghosts (1) giveaway (7) godsmack (1) google reader (1) gothic (2) government (1) grant wilson (1) graphic novel (7) grave peril (1) graveminder (1) greg mortenson (1) grim (1) guest post (3) gypsies tramps and thieves (1) halfway to the grave (1) Halloween (1) hammer of thor (1) haunted asylum (1) haunted house (1) heather blake (1) heather graham (2) heavy metal (1) henry james (1) historical fiction (2) history (3) holiday (1) horns (1) horror (22) horror/urban fantasy reading challenge (12) horror/urban fantasy reaing challenge (1) howard chaykin (1) humor (1) hush hush (2) imm (1) in my mailbox (1) in the blood (1) infected (1) internet blackout (1) irresistibly sweet blog award (1) isaac marion (1) islam (1) it takes a witch (1) jane was here (1) jason hawes (1) jaye wells (1) jeaniene frost (6) jeff hirsch (1) jeffery deaver (1) jennifer blood (1) jenny lawson (1) jesse petersen (3) jim butcher (10) jodi lynn anderson (1) joe hill (2) jonathan maberry (3) joseph spencer (2) josh malerman (1) jrr tolkien (1) juneau (1) k (1) kami garcia (2) karen marie moning (5) Katherine howe (1) katie alender (1) kelley armstrong (1) kenya wright (1) key west (1) kim harrison (3) kindle (1) kitty and the dead man's hand (1) kitty and the silver bullet (1) kitty thomas (1) kresley cole (1) l. frank baum (1) laini taylor (2) late night (7) Laura André (1) Lazy Sunday (1) leaving (1) lee hunt (1) lee roland (1) lesbian (2) lia habel (1) liebster blog award (1) liesel hill (2) limerick (1) little red riding hood (1) living dead in dallas (1) lolita (1) longmire (1) lost and forgotten languages of shanghai (1) lovecraftian (1) madeline sheehan (1) mages (1) magic (1) malice (1) margaret stohl (2) marilyn mason (1) marissa meyer (1) mark of the demon (1) married with zombies (1) masque of the red death (1) matched (1) matched series (1) matt baglio (1) MC (1) Melissa Marr (1) mental illness (1) meteor (1) Michael Vey the Prisoner of Cell 25 (1) middle east (1) midnight blue-light special (1) mike mullin (1) mike pace (1) mira grant (1) Mockingjay (1) monstrumology (1) monthly wrap-up (2) moon called (1) motorcycle (1) movie casting (1) movie review (1) muisc (1) my book boyfriend (3) my life as a white trash zombie (1) my wishlist saturday (1) mystery (10) mythology (2) native americans (1) nazi germany (1) neil gaiman (3) new adult (2) new blog (1) new orleans (1) new year (1) night huntress series (1) nightlife (1) nightshade (1) non-fiction (4) nos4a2 (1) nyc (1) on my wishlist (1) one grave at a time (1) opinion (1) pakistan (1) pale demon (1) parallel dimensions (1) paranormal romance (11) partials (1) pass slowly (1) patricia briggs (2) percy jackson (1) persistence of vision (2) peter clines (1) peter straub (3) philippa gregory (1) pinterest (1) plague town (1) podcast (2) podiobook (1) poison princess (1) police (1) political thriller (1) post-apocalyptic (10) post-WWI (1) promo (2) promo blitz (3) proven guilty (1) PSA (1) puppy (1) quote (1) r (1) R.A.K. (1) rachel morgan (1) random acts of kindess (1) ravenhurst (1) ray bradbury (1) ray chen smith (1) re-read (1) reading challenge (2) red-headed stepchild (1) resident evil 6 (1) retelling (4) retellings (1) review (7) rhiannon frater (3) richard paul evans. 3 skulls (1) richelle mead (3) rick riordan (1) rick yancey (3) rob thurman (1) Robin L Rotham (1) rockabilly (1) romance (2) rosamund hodge (1) rosemary and rue (1) ruiyan xu (1) rusty fiischer (1) s. evan townsend (1) s.g. browne (1) salem witch trials (1) sandman (1) sara gruen (1) sarah j maas (2) sarah kernochan (1) schools (1) sci-fi (5) scott sigler (2) seanan mcguire (4) seether (1) sexuality (1) shadowfever (1) shaman (1) sight (1) silk (1) simon holt (1) sinnful 2¢ (3) slavery (1) slippage (1) smallpox (1) song (1) SOPA (1) Soulstice (1) soundtrack (1) speculative fiction (1) stacey jay (1) stacking the shelves (1) stalker (1) steampunk (2) stephanie meyer (1) stephen ayers (1) stephen king (3) Stephen King project (1) steve perry (1) stolen innocence (1) stop online piracy act (1) storm born (1) stylish blogger award (1) submission (1) succubus blues (1) succubus on top (1) summer knight (1) supernatural suspense (1) susan beth pfeffer (3) susanne winnacker (1) suspense (3) sylvian reynard (2) T (1) taking on the dead (1) tami jackson (1) TAPS (1) TBR pile (1) tears don't fall (1) teaser tuesday (39) technical difficulties (3) ted naifeh (1) the auction (1) The Bone Collector (1) the car thief (1) the cold dish (1) the dark and hollow places (2) the dead and the gone (1) the dead girls of hysteria hall (1) the dead-tossed waves (2) the demon of renaissance drive (1) the divine comedy (1) the eleventh plague (1) the enemy (1) the forest of hands and teeth (2) the hobbit (1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (1) the hunger games (2) the isle of blood (1) the jazz cage (1) the kneebone boy (1) the lady of the rivers (1) the monstrumologist (1) the other life (1) the physick book of deliverance dane (1) the replacement (1) the rite: the making of a modern exorcist (1) the sandman (1) the sight (1) the taba convention (1) the taken (1) the talisman (1) the tomb (1) the vampire of new york (1) the women in the walls (1) the wonderful wizard of oz (1) theme song saturday (65) Theme Thursday (15) theodore weesner (1) theories (1) this is not a test (1) this world we live in (1) three little birds (1) thriller (5) tiger lily (1) toby venables (1) tomb raider 2013 (1) tomes of the dead: viking dead (1) top ten tuesday (1) trevor shane (1) trickster god (1) truth or dare friday (2) twilight (2) undead (1) undeniable (1) update (6) updates (1) urban fantasy (54) vacation (1) valentine's day (1) vampires (10) vanyel ashkevron (1) versatile blogger award (1) vicki pettersson (1) video game review (3) vikings (2) viper moon (1) vladimir nabokov (1) volcano (1) voodoo (1) waiting on wednesday (1) war of southern independence (1) war of the roses (1) warm bodies (1) water for elephants (1) werewolf (1) werewolves (4) western (1) what maisie knew (1) whispered truth (1) white night (1) winner (2) winners (1) witch (2) wyoming (1) YA (15) YA adventure (3) YA dystopia (1) YA fantasy (4) YA fiction (21) YA historical fiction (1) ya horror (5) ya issues (1) YA mystery (1) YA paranormal romance (2) ya post-apocalyptic (14) YA romance (2) ya sci-fi (1) YA series (14) YA supernatural (1) YA supernatural romance (2) YA suspense (2) YA urban fantasy (2) ya with zombies (1) yellowstone national parl (1) zombie month (12) zombie music and movies (1) zombie queen of newbury high (1) zombies (24) zombies don't cry (1)

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Blogs I love


  • Bites
  • An Abundance of Books
  • Reading Without Restraint”=
  • I'm loving ♥ books
  • Candace's book blog
  • Bookish Brunette
  • Fiktshun button
  • Small Review
  • Bewitched Bookworms

  • Grab my Badge

    Sinnful Books
     

    Follow Me!

    Follow on Bloglovin
    Follow on Bloglovin

    Followers

    Linky Followers

    Contributors

    My Photo
    "If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.