Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What Maisie Knew by Henry James

"Maisie's eyes opened wide again; this was so different from what she had expected."

Yet another rare occasion where I'd seen the movie before reading the book. Hard to believe seeing as it is a classic. Perhaps it was the allure of Skarsgard, yes definitely. What struck me with the film and was further underlined by the novel, was how despicable Maisie's parents are. Here is an impressionable young child, trying to make sense of a fractured family life due to her narcissistic parents.

I've been rather busy with work and reading this in fits and starts. The dense language and strange pacing evoke the meandering thought process of a child, and yet make reading difficult. This is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination and quite possibly my least favourite James novel. Maisie's tale is probably rather familiar to many broken families these days and far more common than I imagine would have been the case in 1897 when it was first published.

Maisie's parents have divorced and Maisie spends her time divided between both households. Her father re-marries her governess - hello cliche - or shades of Affleck (allegedly). Her mother is equally frightful and yet manages to ensnare a new lover in the form of Sir Claude, who seems to have a real rapport with the young child. When Sir Claude and Maisie's former governess end up cheating on their respective partners with each other, brought together in some part by their interactions about the child, things get very messy.

As for the rest, I'm sure I can leave it to you to explore the sub 300 pages for yourself. It certainly makes for an interesting comparison with the cinematic outing. The film from 2012 has been modernised and is perhaps therefore much more easy to access and relate to. Both share, at their centre, the innocent upbeat perspective of a young child attempting to make sense of a complicated adult world. I'd be interested to re-read the novel when I've got more dedicated time because I think that my review might be bumped up another star in that instance.

4 out of 5 stars from this precocious kid.

No comments:

Post a Comment