What Maisie Knew by Henry James is still relevant today though it was written first in 1897, re-published in 1907 as Maisie, and in 1995, screenwriters wrote an updated version of this James novel which became a movie in 2012. What readers can come away with from this novel is how divorce games play havoc on a child who becomes the victim, a pawn, in a game of wills.
Henry James refers to Maisie as the child and writes in the omniscient point of view most of the time as we experience the world through the child’s, Maisie, point of view. Her lonliness, hurt, and feelings of abandonment come through clearly. If you thought Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was a slow and difficult read, you’ll experience the same with What Maisie Knew.
It’s amazing the contrast between novels now and novels in the 1800s. The story still hits a problem rampant in our society. As Lamentations says, there’s nothing new under the sun, and divorce is a problem even now as it was in the 1800s when Henry James wrote What Maisie Knew. James shows the game-play between the divorced couple. Maisie becomes the pawn as her mom and dad try to checkmate each other in their battle of wills. What used to be ours becomes mine with the other former spouse choosing to act like a victim. Maisie’s mom and dad fill her ears with words to poison her heart against the other. Being cooperative is out of the question. Maisie is brought low because of her parents inability to love the way the child needs to feel loved.
Maisie also experiences step-parents and the clashes of governesses as she spends so many months with her father and so many months with her mother. In all actuality, she spends little time with the parents and more time with the nannies put in charge of her education and care. Her mother is the worse of the two parents. She never wanted to be a parent and Maisie experiences this loss. Her mother’s new husband is one man Maisie feels the most secure with; that and Mrs. Wix, the governess assigned to her during her stay with Maisie’s mother. Maisie knows little of morality because her upbringing has been less than stellar.
While it’s a short novel, expect the reading to take a while due to the old fashioned writing. I gave it five stars because there’s a lot our society can learn from it’s re-published pages.
*Book given by the publisher to review. An extra copy was sent to me. If you would like this extra copy, the first person to leave a comment expressing their desire to read it will get it mailed to them.