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Book Review: What Maisie Knew by Henry James 

I saw the 2013 movie version of James’ classic story about a year ago and, at the time, had zero idea it was based on a book. Let alone a classic book.

Fast forward a few years and the novel joins the ranks of the wonderful Dollar Tree books I’ve accumulated, and I finally finished the book a few days ago.

A little reading background info about me: I don’t typically read many classics. That’s not because I don’t necessarily enjoy them (in fact many of them are on my TBR), they’re just not my first choice of reading material. Other than the ones most of us had to read in school such as Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Metamorphosis, etc., I haven’t read many.

BUT, What Maisie Knew surprised me in a fairly good way. The story takes place in the late 19th century and follows, through a ten year span, a very mature and observant girl named Maisie who, at the beginning of the book we learn, is in the midst of a very bitter custody battle between her parents who despise each other.

Source: Amazon

It’s sad to say, and pretty ironic considering the legal custody conditions, that both of Maisie’s parents absolutely loathe her deep down. They try and keep their distaste for their only child together hidden behind fake loving facades, though towards the middle/end of the novel, both of them say some very nasty things to her.

On the upper hand however, Maisie is really a kid ahead of her time. The reader gets the notion that she really knows A LOT more than she lets on, and I think that added a special perk to the book. No one usually expects children to pick up on minute details and behaviors, though Maisie further proves that stereotype wrong.

Final thoughts: As the first classic I’ve read in some time, James’ novel wasn’t as much of a chore to read as I had anticipated. Similarly to most old-school classics, their were a few sections that I felt were a little overly descriptive but that con didn’t really take away from the novel as a whole for me.

If you’re into classic lit, or want to start reading more classic lit, check out What Maisie Knew. It’s a story both humorous and heartbreaking.

Rating: 3/5

Other Novels by Henry James

Featured image via Sky


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