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What Maisie Knew (eBook)

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Henry James (1843 - 1916) was one of the leaders in the school of realism in fiction. He is known for his series of novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. James is considered to be the master of the novel and novella. James wrote about personal relationships and the power within these relationships. James explored consciousness and perception fr Henry James (1843 - 1916) was one of the leaders in the school of realism in fiction. He is known for his series of novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. James is considered to be the master of the novel and novella. James wrote about personal relationships and the power within these relationships. James explored consciousness and perception from the point of view of a character within a tale. In What Maisie Knew the divorced parents of a perceptive twelve-year-old girl subsequently remarry, and she continues to spend six months of the year with each family. She observes the same adulterous affairs in her stepmother and stepfather as she saw in her parents; but this knowledge matures rather than corrupts her.


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Henry James (1843 - 1916) was one of the leaders in the school of realism in fiction. He is known for his series of novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. James is considered to be the master of the novel and novella. James wrote about personal relationships and the power within these relationships. James explored consciousness and perception fr Henry James (1843 - 1916) was one of the leaders in the school of realism in fiction. He is known for his series of novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. James is considered to be the master of the novel and novella. James wrote about personal relationships and the power within these relationships. James explored consciousness and perception from the point of view of a character within a tale. In What Maisie Knew the divorced parents of a perceptive twelve-year-old girl subsequently remarry, and she continues to spend six months of the year with each family. She observes the same adulterous affairs in her stepmother and stepfather as she saw in her parents; but this knowledge matures rather than corrupts her.

30 review for What Maisie Knew (eBook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    * A wise old child lived among strange folk The more she saw, the less she spoke, The less she spoke, the more she cried, What's to become of that wise old child? ** Maisie, Maisie, sharp yet hazy, How does your garden grow? With jam suppers and boiled beef, And pretty ladies all in a row. *** There was a fine lady who had a girl child. She had so many lovers, she didn't hear when she cried. She gave her some broth without any br * A wise old child lived among strange folk The more she saw, the less she spoke, The less she spoke, the more she cried, What's to become of that wise old child? ** Maisie, Maisie, sharp yet hazy, How does your garden grow? With jam suppers and boiled beef, And pretty ladies all in a row. *** There was a fine lady who had a girl child. She had so many lovers, she didn't hear when she cried. She gave her some broth without any bread, Then whipped her right soundly and sent her to bed. **** Hush-a-bye Maisie, on the house top When the storm blows, the timbers will rock When the glass breaks, the nurs'ry will fall And down will fall Maisie, nursemaid and all. ***** To father's, to father's, to see a fat pig, Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. To mother's, to mother's, to see a fat hog, Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. ****** Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of wry, Four and twenty lovers stewing in a pie. When the pie is opened the lovers all are spied, Isn't that a dainty dish to set before a child. Father's in the gaming house, losing all his money, Mother's in the parlour, feeding men with honey, Maisie's in the garden, trying not to say a word, When down swoops a lover and scoops her off abroad. ******* This is the story that James built. This is the trap that lay in the story that James built. This is the rat that sprung the trap, That lay in the story that James built. This is the cat that chased the rat that sprung the trap, That lay in the story that James built. This is the dog that worried the cat, That chased the rat that sprung the trap, That lay in the story that James built. This is the cow with the crumpled horn, That tossed the dog that worried the cat, That chased the rat that sprung the trap, That lay in the story that James built. This is the maiden all forlorn, That loved the cow with the crumpled horn, That tossed the dog that worried the cat, That chased the rat that sprung the trap, That lay in the story that James built. This is the man all shiny and shorn, That kissed the maiden all forlorn, That loved the cow with the crumpled horn, That tossed the dog that worried the cat, That chased the rat that sprung the trap, That lay in the story that James built. ....………………………………………………… Loveless marriage is the trap, the father is the the rat, the mother, the cat, the step-mother, the dog, the governess with the crumpled hat, the cow: their constant chasing and harrying of each other will force me to quit this book at the half-way mark unless the shiny step-father who kissed the maiden all forlorn carries through on his many promises soonish... ……………….………………………… Edit twenty-four hours later: I decided to read on...and the only thing of note is that Maisie has found a sixpence! Sixpences really for the forty-eight hours that followed seemed to abound in her life.. ………………………………………… Further edit: The shiny step-father left, the step-mother arrived, then the step-father returned and the governess is about to leave again. Here we go around the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, Here we go round the mulberry bush, on a sad and miserable morning. What hope for the little maiden all forlorn.. ………………………………………… Later edit: maybe some hope: Maisie put the kettle on, Maisie put the kettle on, Maisie put the kettle on, We'll all have tea... ………………………… …………… 22/02/2017 Maisie take it off again, Maisie take it off again, Maisie take it off again, They've all gone away! ……………………………………… Rub, adub, dub, Two left in the tub, And who do you think they be? One cow with a crumpled horn, One maiden all forlorn, And both of them gone to sea.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    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 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 migraine, and there are a couple of books in the middle period in which everything comes right, the focus, the point of it all (what's he actually on about? Ah yes, I see!!) and for me What Maisie Knew is HJ gambolling and turning handsprings and summersets in the brilliant July sunshine before the dementia of subjunctive clausitis set in for good and they took him away and you could only see him on Tuesday afternoons and then only if you didn't speak. So sad. Give the old fellow a bun and some typewriter ribbon. HJ had this filtered-point-of-view thing, he banged on about that for his entire career, and here he filters viciousness through innocence, Maisie's rebarbative parents and their sophisticated internecine wars conducted through the medium of their little daughter's hapless life. It's brilliantly upsetting, much more so than any number of Dickens' pathetic put-upon Little Dorrits and Little Olivers and Little Miss Dombeys. Not to badmouth Dickens, you can't, it's actually illegal, but you don't go to CD for psychological finesse, you come to Henry James. In my humble opinion you can stuff your Portrait of a Lady, that one's an unaccountably popular turkey. What Maisie Knew is second only to The Turn of the Screw in the HJ all time Top Ten, and that's just the simple truth.

  3. 5 out of 5

    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 childhoo/>The 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 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. My Review: Ida and Beale Farange, Maisie's parents, resemble Winter and Dick Derus, my own parents, very very closely. When I read this book in 1996, I was smacked in the teeth by the eerie similarities between the parenting styles of the adults. I'm still a widge unnerved by it. I am completely certain my father's never read the book since I've never ever seen or heard tell of him reading a novel, and I'm pretty confident that my mother wouldn't have read it, being as she was a thoroughgoing anti-Victorian in her reading preferences. But it's as if they absorbed it from the aether and used it as a how-to manual. Poor Maisie! My opinion of the book, then, is strongly colored by the coincidence of its resemblance to my own life. I rate it and respond to it based on that resonance; but that would, all other things being equal, put this much closer to five stars than I rate it here. I've cut a star off because I, unlike most of the professional critics who have discussed the book, find the long ending section set in Maisie's teenaged years (or so we all think, it's never made explicit) unconvincing and a lot too long to be anything but hamfistedly didactic and tendentious. Maisie faces a decision that no child should have to face and she handles it with an aplomb that I found convincing...for a while...because it was so clearly prefigured in the adults who surrounded her behaving so badly. But James was a moralist, and he grafted his Moral Point onto the logical, inevitable ruminations Maisie goes through to make her horrible decision, and ends up crashing the narrative car into the brick wall of Conviction. I do so hate that. As an unrelated aside, there's a movie version...the first ever, apparently...featuring the utterly gorgeous Alexander Skarsgard and the equally toothsome Julianne Moore! Yippee doodles!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    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 praise certain 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 praise certainly raised a hopeful flag for me. Up to that time, I just assumed that Evil and Children and James = The Turn of the Screw. That's still true, but the fact is that it's Evil with (in my opinion) a supernatural element. Maisie has nothing that goes bump in the night (unless it's one of the incredible parade of adulterous adults), but it's bleak picture of human corruption goes into more identifiable areas of darkness than the famous ghost story. As the novel opens, Beale and Ida Farange are getting divorced. It's been a nasty affair, and floating between them is their only child, Maisie. Neither parent really wants her, and I believe she's between four and six years of age at the time. What follows is the passing back and forth between the parents of the child. She becomes a pawn for the eventual step parents, the new Mrs. Beale and the new Mr. Ida (Sir Claude) as well as the old fuddy dud governess, Mrs. Wix (who herself has a silly crush on Sir Claude). At the start this is somewhat comical, but in the back of your mind you keep asking yourself, What about the child? And it's good to keep asking yourself that question, because it provides a sure anchor just in case you're losing count of the adulteries. In the last quarter of the book, things take a much darker turn. The original Beale is off to America with an ugly rich woman, and Ida, Mama, is batty as hell. Masks are dropped, sex is in the air, and there is a rather long and amazing confrontation at the end that has the gravity of a theological debate. This isn't boring, I assure you. Maisie, who to my mind is somewhere around 11 to 13 at this point (and there is some debate about her age), has, unlike so many Dickens heroes, been corrupted to some extent by all that she has had to live through. (How could she not?) The one good figure, Mrs. Wix (and she herself is a mixed bag), argues strongly for the "moral sense," and it's need to be maintained. (And she is sincere.) Maisie's cruelty, just now starting to show itself, will surprise you. What will be her choice? The end is ambiguous, but powerful. This novel invites a number of different interpretations, and would probably be a great candidate for a book club reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    How to describe this book; different, unusual, 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 as an adult, How to describe this book; different, unusual, 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 as an adult, see her rise above her childhood, find love and happiness. To bad that never occurred to James. If you read the reviews here on Goodreads, you see everything from 1 star to 5 star ratings. Really, that's true with every book, but I can understand it with this one. James, known for his lengthy thoughts and descriptions, uses those to distraction here. Some sentenses were so long that I lost the train of thought. Nevertheless, the final result is a story that grabs your attention, one that every reader can relate to to some extent. The characters, likeable or not, are beautifully crafted by James and taken as a whole, I liked this book. 4 solid stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    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 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 paragraph and thinking, "Huh?" It was like reading a book in a foreign language where you understand the individual words, but cannot always make sense of the sentences. You hope the next sentence will make everything clear - but it doesn't. I mean sentences like this: "The case was indeed that the quality of [Mrs Wix's] motive surpassed the sharpness of her angles; both the combination and the singularity of which things, when in the afternoon they used the carriage, Maisie could borrow from the contemplative hush of their grandeur the freedom to feel to the utmost." The idea of using language like that to present a child's point of view is bizarre, but it had the effect that I had as much trouble as Maisie understanding what was going on emotionally with the various parents and step-parents, although for a different reason. I think that must have been deliberate on James's part because it gets easier as the book progresses (and as Maisie gets older). I don't think we are ever told how old she is, but the plot must span several years. The final section, set across the Channel in Boulogne, is wonderful. So in the end I have given it 4 stars although at the beginning it sometimes had me wanting to throw the book across the room.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    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 a 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, because otherwise the headache it induced became unbearable. Learn to sentence, Henry James.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    My real life reading friends and I - a scant five of us - have, at my suggestion, and since 2014, attempted an annual group reading project (book, theme or author). That first year was Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus. In 2015, we pledged to read novels about WWI by authors from the participant countries. Last year was Anthony Trollope. For reasons you could guess as easily as I can, one of the five of us (not me), at the end of each year, has not read any book in the project. The rest of us have all felt My real life reading friends and I - a scant five of us - have, at my suggestion, and since 2014, attempted an annual group reading project (book, theme or author). That first year was Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus. In 2015, we pledged to read novels about WWI by authors from the participant countries. Last year was Anthony Trollope. For reasons you could guess as easily as I can, one of the five of us (not me), at the end of each year, has not read any book in the project. The rest of us have all felt rewarded. It has devolved upon me, or I have taken it upon myself, to be the one to offer suggestions for the coming year. This year I offered: 'The Stories of Flannery O'Connor', any novel of Nabokov that is not 'Lolita', Zola. . . . (but no one jumped, so, I swallowed hard and timidly said). . . .Henry James? They jumped. Well, one guy jumped and the rest followed. So..., this being the good ol' U.S. of A., a democracy kind of, and the election results being in, like it or not. . . . this is my year of reading Henry James. The plot of this'un, first of all, was typically Victorian in that societal class matters more than actual virtue, much is hidden, and no one has an actual job. Maisie's parents - (we hardly know them) - have as little to do with Maisie as they can, divorce, quickly meet new partners, which partners find their way to each other, leaving the parents to find new partners and, ahem, a convenient exit. Maisie goes to whomever will have her, except her father's 'brown' girlfriend. . . . she won't go there. Yes, ridiculous. Most negative reviews wave a white flag at James' writing style. I get that. There are sentences - meandering, comma-splattered, jealously refusing to yield to the next - which made me want to throw them at his tombstone and shout, "HEY, YOU! In English, please!" Oh, what an election.

  9. 4 out of 5

    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 James in 18 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 James in 1897, while he was still living in London. The structure of this sophisticated novel is extraordinarily clever, as the entire plot is laid out from the perspective of the little girl, Maisie (and keep the title of the novel in mind as you read too). The novel starts off with the parents being granted a divorce and the court awarding that custody of Maisie will be shared. This poor little girl has to spend six months with her father and then be packed off for six months with her mother. What is even worse is that the parents use Maisie in their on-going fight-to-the-death with one another; at the same time they take on new spouses (and then immediately begin adulterous relationships!). And while Maisie is wise beyond her years and quite perceptive to what is going on around her in the world of the grown-ups that she is surrounded by, much of what she observes has to be interpreted through the lens of the experience of her own childhood and the little bit of love and kindness bestowed upon her from a scant few of the adults--but not her own parents--around her. Through the course of the novel Maisie does gravitate to the two characters that do seem offer her the hope and opportunity of kindness, love, and some semblance of stability, and those two characters are her governess, Mrs Wix, and her mother's second ex-husband Sir Claude. Sir Claude has his own 'bag-of-issues' to deal with, but he is really and truly genuinely concerned about Maisie and her long-term welfare. He ends being more of father-figure to the little girl, by a long-shot, than her own father did on his very best day. Ultimately, these two people, whom Maisie trusts with her heart and soul, do end up making the right decisions that give this little girl a chance for a wholesome life. Finally, it needs to be said that there's much in this novel that can offend modern sensibilities, particularly when it comes to how children are looked after (or not), guardianship issues, or even the exercise of parental responsibilities (or not!). The reader needs to remember that there weren't governmental agencies like 'Child Protective Services' in Victorian England to provide that safety net for children in Maisie's situation. Henry James, like Charles Dickens before him, seems to have been much affected by child welfare issues, and I have to think he was trying to make a point here that parental responsibility is a duty and an obligation and that love and a nurturing stable environment are what every child needs and deserves. As painful as it was to read, I'm glad that I read What Maisie Knew, and look forward to reading it again in the future. At this point, I would give this 3.5 stars out of five. But I still want to reach into the pages of this novel and throttle both of her parents!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    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 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, while her hands are roaming up and down the crenellation. Yowza, Freud must have drooled over that battlement elevation, if he ever bothered with fiction. Maisie is The Governess before she started seeing ghosts in the shrubbery. The combination of innocence and observational understanding is chilling. And fantastic literary legerdemain. This is intriguing stuff, nestled enticingly in the same time Freud and James cast their weird and wonderful spells. Just read a .edu review that labeled Maisie as evil. That judgment is fascinating, too. The men in What Maisie Knew are feckless. The women are shrill and conniving. Is a child shaped by the machinations of these adults evil? Who among these characters has any power at all? Did Maisie create herself then? In school, I thought both James and Freud were scared stupid of girls. 45 years later, I still think that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    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 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 rather than exacting; fussy and anal rather than psychologically penetrating. I never cared about any of the characters or situations in this novel -- lord knows I wanted to, but James' prose just bogged them down. What can I say? I feel like a philistine and am trying to qualify my disappointment to maybe give the novel the benefit of the doubt, but that's how I feel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    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 audiotape version of The Tu 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 audiotape version of The Turn of the Screw (courtesy of the used-book section of the Azusa Public Library) and was again unimpressed. I believed that my relationship with Henry was at an end. What prompted me to give him another chance? Two things. The first is Steve’s review, which made it sound interesting. The second – related – reason is that, like Maisie, my parents divorced when I was fairly young. Happily for me, my father and mother were nothing like Maisie’s parents, Beale and Ida, but stories about divorce hold a particular fascination for me (see, for example, George Meredith’s cycle of poems about his divorce, Modern Love.) Why I wish I could give it a full four stars: The story. Maisie Farange is one of the most remarkable characters I’ve come across in my reading. James tells her story in the third person but entirely from her point of view. The result is that she’s present on every page, and the reader knows only what she sees and feels. It’s a remarkable, brilliant tour de force. Why I can only give it three stars: The writing style. It’s…dense. This is not a book one reads on the bus while your iPod blares the latest Beyoncé in your ears. James’ sentences are often Rube Goldbergian in their complexity. An only moderately discursive example: “He demurred. ‘Oh, no. She has written to me,’ he presently subjoined. ‘She’s not afraid of your father either. No one at all is – really.’ Then he went on while Maisie’s little mind, with its filial spring too relaxed, from of old, for a pang at this want of parental majesty, speculated on the vague relation between Mrs. Beale’s courage and the question, for Mrs. Wix and herself, of a neat lodging with their friend. ‘She wouldn’t care a bit if Mr. Farange should make a row.’” (p. 87) One reviewer suggests the interesting idea that the convolutions mirror Maisie’s incomprehension about what’s happening around her but I’m not entirely convinced. The complexity works in parts – and there are some wickedly acerbic characterizations – but more often (for me) it was too affected and kept me from immersing myself entirely in the story. Though the reading got easier as my brain got used to parsing the prose, I never got comfortable with it. I may pick this up in a couple of years and reread it; it’s definitely a book that demands one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    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 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 the capacity to tell right from wrong? I don't think its clear at all. And I also saw the finality of the ending as being very arbitrary. Nothing would stop any of the characters from flip-flopping once again and re-crossing the channel. If there was a finality, it was in Masie's being able to make a decision, whether it was right or wrong. And James might insist upon this, but I'm not sure that I really buy it. What I liked most about this book is how James handles Masie's very troubling upbringing. He does a great job of showing a very shrewd child growing up with no moral example whatsoever. Her openness, and her keen perceptions without any conventional understanding of how things "ought" to be, are at times delightful. What I didn't like so much this time was the writing. Sometimes Jame's dialogue is just awful. Especially when he falls back on the form of one person saying something vague but slightly ominous. The next repeats the same thing in the form of a question, usually asking who it was directed. The first then repeats the phrase, perhaps making it even vaguer, but adding a pronoun at the end with emphasis. The second person, the repeats the sentence again, but changes the pronoun. He does this shit again and again, and it gets old and tiresome. Either that, or he understood that monsters tended to talk in this incredibly annoying, and monstrous fashion. Then there are some of his pet phrases. I'd like to be able to smack him once for every time he uses the phrase "hung fire." Other than a Rolling Stones song, does anyone else ever use this expression. Or did he somehow take a copyright or trademark on it, so that it becomes a Henry James special. Another writer would take serious heat for so frequently relying on a phrase like this. I know James is not sacrosanct, because I've seen some absolutely brilliant parodies of his later style. But I do sometimes wonder -- he has a very distinct and strong style, but in the last couple of books I have thought it got in the way more than it helped. Was it growing pains, as he developed his late style? Did he force the late style onto stuff where it didn't fit in his post-publication re-writes? Or are these books somehow just not as good as the late, great books -- or for that matter, the early, straightforward books like Daisy Miller and Washington Square.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    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?)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alice ✨

    An unsigned review published in the 1897 Manchester Guardian describes this book as "a study, not a story or a drama", "a work of art, but hardly one which we wish to hang on our walls." I feel like these words perfectly capture the essence of Henry James' work. It is a study of a child's innocence amidst the entanglement of adult relationships and one can not help but feel a deep sense of compassion towards Maisie. Nothing of the situation she finds herself in -the ugly divorce of he An unsigned review published in the 1897 Manchester Guardian describes this book as "a study, not a story or a drama", "a work of art, but hardly one which we wish to hang on our walls." I feel like these words perfectly capture the essence of Henry James' work. It is a study of a child's innocence amidst the entanglement of adult relationships and one can not help but feel a deep sense of compassion towards Maisie. Nothing of the situation she finds herself in -the ugly divorce of her parents and its following- is any of her fault, yet she is constantly held accountable by some characters for their misfortunes and toyed around by them as a means of provocation. She has become a tool in the lives of these adults. Henry James has somewhat of a heavy style, but is able to understand the child and to write her effortlessly. I was amazed by how beautifully he captured the simplicity of Maisie, and yet also offered us heartfelt glimpses of her struggling emotions. However, this makes it all the harder to read and as the 1897 review mentioned, the book is a masterpiece, but not one that your heart would allow you to reread.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark Stephenson

    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 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 self-portrait of HJ himself. Her stepfather, Claude, is also very memorable, funny and likeable.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    I'm sorry Mr. James. I'm at page 175 and I just can't handle any more. I have no idea who "she" and "he" are referring to, and long long long long sentences where "she said" "he said" but absolutely nothing happens. So I'll never know what Maisie knew.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    This was very different to what I was expecting. A very young child Maisie Farange becomes a pawn between her waring, bitter parents and eventual step parents. All of the adults in this novel were found wanting. All were despicable in one way or another, emotional blackmailers, selfish beings. I was left wondering by the exhausting end the psychological impact for Maisie in later years. The years of emotional abuse would surely have taken a toll. Some darker themes hinted a This was very different to what I was expecting. A very young child Maisie Farange becomes a pawn between her waring, bitter parents and eventual step parents. All of the adults in this novel were found wanting. All were despicable in one way or another, emotional blackmailers, selfish beings. I was left wondering by the exhausting end the psychological impact for Maisie in later years. The years of emotional abuse would surely have taken a toll. Some darker themes hinted at here - the novel was tiring in content, as well as being long winded in places. An emotive read. No issues with the free edition

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sinn

    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 dis 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    Several Turns of the Screw What hubris to review a work by such a major novelist as Henry James, even though What Maisie Knew may not be one of his major novels! All the same, a review can perhaps be useful in two regards: by commenting on this particular edition, and by suggesting how the novel might appeal to those familiar with other James works but not this one. This Penguin Classics paperback is crisply printed, comfortable in the hand, and well annotated. There is also an excellent essay by Several Turns of the Screw What hubris to review a work by such a major novelist as Henry James, even though What Maisie Knew may not be one of his major novels! All the same, a review can perhaps be useful in two regards: by commenting on this particular edition, and by suggesting how the novel might appeal to those familiar with other James works but not this one. This Penguin Classics paperback is crisply printed, comfortable in the hand, and well annotated. There is also an excellent essay by Paul Theroux. It gives too much away, I think, to be read as an introduction, but it does make a helpful afterword. If you do read the essay first, which is how it is printed, it may seem that Theroux has revealed virtually the entire plot, but in fact this is not so. James's narrative exposition is unusually swift in this book, and a lot happens very quickly, but his main interest lies in exploring the psychological depths of the situation that he has established; there is a distinct change of gear at roughly the halfway point of the book. As Theroux points out, the novel is generally considered a transitional work between James's earlier style and his later one. Theroux also locates this gear-change at the point where James ceased writing in longhand and started dictating his novels to a stenographer—a crisis described so well by Colm Tóibín in his biographical novel, The Master. The first half of the book shows a leanness of style and also a great sense of humor not often associated with the author. But the book's premise is intrinsically comic: Maisie, a five-year-old girl, observes the doings of the adults around her as she is shipped from household to household in consequence of her parents' divorce, as the parents take lovers and remarry, and then as virtually everybody else in the story takes other lovers. The humor comes from the fact that while Maisie understands so little at first, the adult reader quickly picks up what is going on. The spider symmetries of the expanding web of sex make a formal pattern as clear and intricate as a dance, illuminated by James's dry wit and his beautiful ability to see through childish eyes. Several things change at the half-way point. Maisie becomes old enough to understand a little more. The adults whom she had previously observed from below now become more conscious of her as a potential ally and start using her unscrupulously to further their own ends. Twists of the plot which had at first seemed only amusing now appear as quite nasty turns of the screw, as Maisie's affections and loyalties are forced into the vise. Questions of morality come to the fore, and eventually dominate the action. The narrative tone also changes; although Maisie's knowledge and moral awareness develops considerably, James is forced into using his own voice to describe it, as though Maisie herself has lost the words to follow her own farewell to childhood. The reference above to The Turn of the Screw is deliberate, for What Maisie Knew (1897) seems almost like a preliminary draft for the more famous story, published in the following year. Yes, there are differences: this is comic rather than tragic, complicit rather than mysterious, and much less hermetic. The child heroine appears to come through with more wisdom and less trauma than the situation might have caused. But the final scene is astonishingly close to the ending of the later story: a struggle for control of a once-innocent child waged between a humble governess and two charismatic figures who exert a powerful hold both on the child and on each other. Only the ending is different, though no less worth waiting for.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    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 the 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 then, as each loses interest in her altogether, trying to impose her upon the former spouse, all the time bad-mouthing the other to her. Ultimately each remarries, Beale to Maisie’s former governess, now “Mrs. Beale,” and Ida to the feckless and self-indulgent but loving Sir Charles who loves Maisie but can never tear himself loose from his sexual enthrallment to Mrs. Beale, with whom he commences an affair. Beale and Ida soon tire of their new spouses and embark on an endless series of extramarital affairs. Through all of this Maisie is a shuttlecock tossed back and forth between various partners, and she learns to keep quiet, to play dumb, and to develop insight into motivations and language that is beyond her years. Her one fixed supportive character is the plain and outspoken Mrs. Wix, her sometime governess employed by Ida. James demonstrates mastery of his craft in the construction and execution of his plot. His insights into character and personality are precise and deep, and his dialogue requires careful attention of the reader in that what is not said is as important as what is stated. Syntax is elaborate and complex, often requiring rereading of a sentence or paragraph, but this to me adds to the novel’s richness. This is not a book to be read quickly, but James’ works never are. I found it delightful and thought provoking, providing deep insights into a child’s mind and experience as well as showing James’ own development as a novelist.

  23. 4 out of 5

    James

    While some of James' fiction can be confusing to read, Maisie is relatively easy to follow, though you might find yourself going back over a sentence to get its full flavor. Reading some of James' sentences is like hang-gliding from the first word to the period—you take in so much information along the way that you're likely to get a bit giddy. The story of the sensitive daughter of divorced and irresponsible parents, What Maisie Knew has great contemporary relevance as an unflinching accou While some of James' fiction can be confusing to read, Maisie is relatively easy to follow, though you might find yourself going back over a sentence to get its full flavor. Reading some of James' sentences is like hang-gliding from the first word to the period—you take in so much information along the way that you're likely to get a bit giddy. The story of the sensitive daughter of divorced and irresponsible parents, What Maisie Knew has great contemporary relevance as an unflinching account of a wildly dysfunctional family. The book is also a masterly technical achievement by James, as it follows the title character from earliest childhood to precocious maturity. It's not surprising from the book's title that knowledge and education form a major theme in it. Her keen observation of the irresponsible behavior of almost all the adults she lives with eventually persuades her to rely on her most devoted friend, Mrs. Wix, even though the frumpy governess is by far the least superficially attractive adult in her life. The novel is also a thoroughgoing condemnation of parents and guardians abandoning their responsibilities towards their children. James saw English society as becoming more corrupt and decadent, and What Maisie Knew is one of his harshest indictments of those who can't be bothered to live responsible lives. It might seem that such a book would become almost unbearably grim. But James leavens the sorry doings with a generous dose of admittedly dark humor. The act of writing to James was a highly delicate operation, as if he were building a house of cards, and the least slip would ruin the design. Though Maisie is not a perfect book, it is filled with James' elaborate literary feats, those suspenseful sleights of hand that always induce pleasurable gasps at each successful intellectual vibration.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tamsen

    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? 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?"" And I can tell you what I would choose. This was mind-numbingly boring. I read Hark! A Vagrant recently, and one of her comics features a synopsis of What Maisie Knew. Here it is, and sorry if this ruined the book for you:

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tad

    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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Will Miller

    If you think you might like late James, pick this up -- it will separate the curious from the James fanatics. Playing with his own "junior adult" style of writing for children, James refracts a sordid, petty adult world through precocious eyes. Beautifully sustained -- as satisfying as calculus.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    What to do with What Maisie Knew? I quite enjoyed the conceit, even while I didn’t love it the way I can best love James (looking at you Wings of a Dove and Portrait of a Lady). But I went from reveling in (and being horrified by) the sheer wickedness of parenting that creates our precocious Maisie to being a little bored by the morality play that caps it off. And did the untouchable nearly perfect Juliet Stevenson make an unforced error here? I think she did, and I never thought I’d say that. T What to do with What Maisie Knew? I quite enjoyed the conceit, even while I didn’t love it the way I can best love James (looking at you Wings of a Dove and Portrait of a Lady). But I went from reveling in (and being horrified by) the sheer wickedness of parenting that creates our precocious Maisie to being a little bored by the morality play that caps it off. And did the untouchable nearly perfect Juliet Stevenson make an unforced error here? I think she did, and I never thought I’d say that. The issue of Maisie’s age (I learned after finishing) has bedeviled critics since the beginning. But sheer passage of time (multiple year long custody cycles) suggests that by book’s end Maisie is at least 10 or 11, if not a bit older. But Juliet voices her as a precocious almost lisping tot throughout. After thinking it over, I thought that the book is probably more interesting if Maisie is on the cusp of adolescence during the final section when she becomes so attached to Sir Claude and almost detested by both her mother and Mrs. Beal. Still though, a pleasure and a treasure!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    "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 phe "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 of her dress to a certain stiffening of the arm. "I say you're a precious idiot, and I won't have you put words into my mouth!" This was much more peremptory than a mere contradiction. Maisie could only feel on the spot that everything had broken short off and that their communication had abruptly ceased. That was presently proved. "What business have you to speak to me of him?" Her daughter turned scarlet. "I thought you liked him." "Him!-- the biggest cad in London!" Her ladyship towered again, and in the gathering dusk the whites of her eyes were huge. Maisie's own, however, could by this time pretty well match them; and she had at least now, with the first flare of anger that had ever yet lighted her face for a foe, the sense of looking up quite as hard as any one could look down. "Well, he was kind about you then; he was, and it made me like him. He said things-- they were beautiful, they were, they were!" She was almost capable of the violence of forcing this home, for even in the midst of her surge of passion-- of which in fact it was a part-- there rose in her a fear, a pain, a vision ominous, precocious, of what it might mean for her mother's fate to have forfeited such a loyalty as that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    DNF. Sadly, having picked this book up cheap as a punt because it is a classic and because it was something different to what I usually read, it proved to be too different for my tastes. What essentially is an interesting premise - the life of a young girl as she is passed between her divorced parents, told from her incomplete and immature POV - was so mired in James' convoluted long (and poorly constructed) sentences, it was rendered a labour to read. Yes, in complete silence and given an uninterr DNF. Sadly, having picked this book up cheap as a punt because it is a classic and because it was something different to what I usually read, it proved to be too different for my tastes. What essentially is an interesting premise - the life of a young girl as she is passed between her divorced parents, told from her incomplete and immature POV - was so mired in James' convoluted long (and poorly constructed) sentences, it was rendered a labour to read. Yes, in complete silence and given an uninterrupted few days to slowly toil through it, reading each line three times to better understand it, a reader may get all of the intended enjoyment from what is probably a witty and well observed piece, but I didn't have that luxury and wasn't getting much enjoyment from it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    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 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 James' legendary difficult late period of 1902-4, the prose is not as challenging as The Golden Bowl et al - elegant and lightly ironic.

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