Iíve transcribed this because my paper copy is falling apart.
What Maisie Knew is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in the Chap Book and (revised and abridged) in the New Review in 1897 and then as a book later in the same year. 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.
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 reasonably 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. For instance, the dumpy Mrs. Wix falls victim to an unintentionally hilarious infatuation with the handsome Sir Claude. And James often plays Maisie's lightweight father for laughs, as when he gets involved with a woman he tells Maisie is an American "countess."
The way James convincingly follows the growth of Maisie's consciousness from its first faint glimmerings of awareness to its final comprehensive understanding of her situation has usually earned great respect. Though a lifelong bachelor, James was good with children and this book shows his ability to enter into the trials, fears and joys of a child's existence.
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