Tag: classics

What Maisie Knew by Henry James

Posted on 02/17/2014 in Book Review / 0 Comments

What Maisie Knew by Henry JamesWhat Maisie Knew by Henry James
Published by Penguin Classics on 5/1/2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 307
Format: Paperback
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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.

Those who know me know I read the book then watch the movie. So you know full well that when I was asked to review this book and the movie I looked something like this:

fuller Half way through the book I looked something like this:


I totally forgot how books where written 100 years ago.

This book is about an unhappy couple, Beale and Ida Farange, that get divorced. The court decides that the only child of Mr and Mrs Farange, Maisie, shall spend six months of the year with one parent and then six months with the other. The parents despise each other so much they use Maisie to fuel their hatred of each other. But Maisie learns quick at a younge age, with the help of both her governesses Miss Overmore and Ms. Wix, that keeping quiet and dull, the parents will have no use for her in there hateful games. Once the parents grow tired of Maisie’s indifference to her surroundings, they revert to crueler games to hurt each other that do nothing but confuse pool little Maisie. This was a very strange book. It’s not your typical story where you have a beginning, middle, climax and end. This book has no beginning, no climax and no end. They dump you right in the thick of things. You can forget about character development while you’re at it as well. Once you are introduced to a character that is about it for the whole book!! One sentence pretty much sums up each character and they stay that way. The book does not go too much into description of places or things. This book sort of reminds me of a how to but from a child’s perspective on how adults act. It is just a skillfully well-played game of manipulation. This book taught me that not much has changed in 100 years, when some families divorce. I felt so bad for Maisie during the whole book. That child did not learn anything about love or loyalty. She learned how to manipulate people into getting what you want. Even though she did not use that talent on the people who came and went in her life, it is still sad to see that no one cared for the child’s well being just there own wants. There was no happy ending. As soon as I finished the book, I really, REALLY wanted to know what happened to everyone!! There was no closure!!!!! What kind of person did Maisie grew up to be? Did her biological parents get what they deserved? What happened to her step parents? Did anything turn out good??? The beginning of the book has an excerpt from the Director of the movie on how they got the screen play into action. The movie stars Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgård and it also takes place in modern day New York City. The film premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2012 with a DVD release in May of 2013. With the lack of basic story line, I am interested in seeing how they turned this book into a movie.

About Henry James

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 encounter of America with Europe. His plots centered on personal relationships, the proper exercise of power in such relationships, and other moral questions. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allowed him to explore the phenomena of consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.

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