Monday, December 30, 2019

209. What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew
Henry James
1897
Around 250 pages









I've heard it said that the first sentence of a novel is the incantation that brings it into being. Let's take a look at Henry James' spell (or, perhaps in this case, malediction): "The litigation had seemed interminable and had in fact been complicated; but by the decision on the appeal the judgement of the divorce-court was confirmed as to the assignment of the child."

Oof.

Cluttered is the word that comes to mind with Henry James. While he does come up with beautiful sentences, they are often weighed down with unnecessary prose. Of course, my entire life is made up of unnecessary prose, so I can't judge too harshly.

Maisie's parents are the Kramer vs. Kramer of 1897; both are determined to handle their divorce as ungracefully as possible. Maisie is what Henry James' idea of a little girl is: innocence personified. Which is fine I guess, although little girls are capable of much more interesting things. Anyway, Maisie is pulled between her two parents and their unfortunate new partners, and her eccentric governess Mrs. Wix.

I don't mean to be too hard on ole Hank here; he chose a compelling topic for his time and really paints a picture of truly odious people. On the other hand, reading it now is a drag and a good story should never feel like a chore. Only one third of the way done with the Henry James novels. I'm sure he has a LOT more to say, hopefully 20% of it will be interesting.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Speaking of little girls, Vladimir Nabokov reportedly hated this novel.

UP NEXT: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Already read, as part of my scary October reads, so expect this review up shortly!

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