Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Read-along Begins: What Maisie Knew


I
The child was provided for, but the new arrangement was inevitably confounding to a young intelligence intensely aware that something had happened which must matter a good deal and looking anxiously out for the effects of so great a cause. It was to be the fate of this patient little girl to see much more than she at first understood, but also even at first to understand much more than any little girl, however patient, had perhaps ever understood before. Only a drummer-boy in a ballad or a story could have been so in the thick of the fight. She was taken into the confidence of passions on which she fixed just the stare she might have had for images bounding across the wall in the slide of a magic-lantern. Her little world was phantasmagoric - strange shadows dancing on a sheet. It was as if the whole performance had been given for her - a mite of a half-scared infant in a great dim theatre. She was in short introduced to life with a liberality in which the selfishness of others found its account, and there was nothing to avert the sacrifice but the modesty of her youth.
What Maisie Knew
by Henry Hames

Oh, Henry! It's been a couple of years since I last read a Henry James novel (Washington Square in 2013), but the style and rhythm of his sentences is immediately recognizable. It will no doubt take me several pages, or maybe even a chapter, to get into the groove, but I'm looking forward to beginning this novel within the next couple of days.

I'll be reading along with Audrey, Frances, and a couple of others. We'll post our thought at the end of the month... you're welcome to join us.

Here's the goodreads summary:
After her parents’ bitter divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled between her selfish mother and vain father, who value her only as a means for provoking each other. Maisie—solitary, observant, and wise beyond her years—is drawn into an increasingly entangled adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal until she is finally compelled to choose her own future. Published in 1897 as Henry James was experimenting with narrative technique and fascinated by the idea of the child’s-eye view, What Maisie Knew is a subtle yet devastating portrayal of an innocent adrift in a corrupt society.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

51 comments:

  1. And we're off! I do have a question... There's a bit early on about Maisie's skinny legs, a 'short, ugly word' that her nurse says, and the meat served at dinner that baffled me. If you figure out what our Henry is talking about there, will you let me know? :)

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    1. Audrey - I will! Another 100 or so pages of City on Fire then I'm good to start.

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  2. I would definitely keep reading. Henry James is an author I've been wanting to read and this sounds intriguing. I'm surprised in a divorce at that time that the parents are sharing custody. I haven't seen that happen all that often in books and real life from the 1950s and down so I'm interested to see how that's handled. Enjoy your reading!

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    1. Katherine - It does sound like a story that's ahead of its time.... I had tat same thought.

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  3. I'd continue reading although I don't know how far I'd get...

    Reading With Jade

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    1. Reading with Jade - Henry can be a challenge ;-)

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  4. Boy, the James style has really thickened since Washington Square (1880) and Portrait of a Lady (1881). I will have to give myself a little more time to read this. Page per page it will be slower than WS.

    The developed magic lantern metaphor is quite good. That's what keeps me reading.

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    1. Tom - I haven't read any of James later works and am starting to get a little worried about Maisie (1897). Judging from that first paragraph, it will definitely require a little more concentration and effort than Washington Square, Daisy Miller, or Portrait of a Lady.

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  5. OK, little confession - I have not liked the Henry James books that I've tried in the past, except for THE TURN OF THE SCREW. However, hope you enjoy this one.

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    1. Kay - The Turn of the Screw is a strange book. I've read it twice and thought something different happened each time... maybe it will seem more straightforward on a third reading? ;-)

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  6. This sounds very interesting and I might just add it to my to-read list. But I think a lot of readers, myself included, find the old English novels a bit of a tough read. On the other hand, it seems their translation to the big screen comes off as quite entertaining. My daughter, who would never be able to get through a Henry James book, is very fond of The Golden Bowl movie.

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    1. JudyMac - James does require a little extra effort, but I've really enjoyed the handful of his novels I've read. The later works where his sentences become so convoluted scare me. Watching the movie of The Golden Bowl may be the only way I ever get through that one ;-)

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  7. I wish I had time to join you in this (I've so loved the read-alongs we've shared already!). I'm rereading Jane Eyre for her 200th birthday in April, and the slew of books which are coming as a take-off on the original. But, I'll be reading your thoughts on Henry James' book with great interest.

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    1. Bellezza - I was thinking about finally reading Villette for Charlotte Bronte's 200th birthday, but I am past due for a Jane Eyre reread... Haven't heard about any of the spin-offs yet, but I'm not surprised a few are on the way.

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  8. I love these retreads of old authors...one of these days I will join in!

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  9. I have this book on my Kindle (Pippa), which I downloaded after watching the movie. I loved the movie, but the book is long...which is why I just keep re-watching the movie...lol.

    I will read it at some point, though. Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Okay, I checked on Amazon, and the paperback version says 306 pages and the Kindle - 500+...interesting, right?

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    2. Laurel-Rain Snow - I'll be watching the movie as soon as I finish the book. It's interesting that they chose to set it in modern time. I'm always mystified by the way page counts can vary so widely between kindle and print, and even between various print editions. I have a kindle edition, but will pretend it's only 306 pages;-)

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  10. I've never read anything by James, but that paragraph makes me curious! No read-alongs for me, though. Gotta stick to my books (with the exception of one that I just can't pass up!).

    Hope you're having a lovely day at the beach. I'm home (Snow Day!) thanks to Blizzard Kayla. I'm spending the day on my couch, reading everything from a couple of books to a cookbook to old letters that I'm sorting through to the occasion blog or FB post. I could get used to this!

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    1. Les - I'm trying really hard to read my own books this year, too, but have had Maisie on my kindle for a while. Today has been the warmest day since we got here... sunshine at last!

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  11. I'm glad you mentioned taking several pages to get "into the groove," because I stumbled through the book's beginning. However, that usually seems to happen with books written long ago. The style is so different from what we're used to today.
    This sounds like an excellent story that I would enjoy.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.
    Sandy @ TEXAS TWANG

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    1. Sandra - I stumbled through it the first time I read it, too, and I know at least the beginning will be very slow going. Hopefully it won't take too long to get into the rhythm of his sentences.

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  12. The cover alone is tempting. I haven't read a Henry James novel in a very long time. I like the storyline of this one. I look forward to seeing what you think. Have fun with the read-along.

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    1. Margot - I'm sure this must have been a revolutionary/scandalous story at the time. Can't wait to begin!

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  13. I haven't read this author and feel guilty too :) I like the intro and am curious for more. Thinking of (and my SIL) in sunny FL.

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    1. Diane - I wouldn't fell guilty about it. I think Henry is an acquired taste ;-)

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  14. I could definitely spend a little while getting into the groove of this one - amazing to think it was so long ago that he wrote this and yet the theme is still relevant today.

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    1. Cleo - I read somewhere that this was one of the first novels about divorce/child custody. Henry James was ahead of his time!

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  15. I have to agree--a story ahead of it's time. I have never read Henry James. I do have a classic list in my head an I guess he needs to go on it.

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    1. Debbie - Make sure it's one of his early novels on your list... maybe Daisy Miller.

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  16. I love that you love Henry James, too. Not everybody does. But I love to dive into his prose and let his elegant mastery of the English language carry me away into the lives and story lines of his characters. He's the best!

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    1. Lark - I've decided that Henry James is an acquired taste which is easier to develop if you start near the beginning. I enjoyed Daisy Miller very much and went on to read a few other... absolutely loved Portrait of a Lady! His later works scare me though. Haven't mustered enough courage to try them.

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    2. The one I found hardest to read is The Golden Bowl. And The Princess Casimassima isn't my favorite because I didn't enjoy the plot as much. But don't be scared of the others!

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    3. Lark - Not sure I'll ever be ready for The Golden Bowl, but would be willing to give most others a chance.

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    1. Harvee - I've had it on my kindle for a long time and plan to watch the movie when I'm done.

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  18. Enjoy! I'll be honest, I'm more than a little afraid of reading Henry James. But I wish you luck, and will look forward to your thoughts on it.

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    1. Sharon - Henry James' early work is not at all difficult... especially Daisy Miller. I know you're occupied with Virginia Woolf at the moment though, and I can't imagine reading her and Henry at the same time!!

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  19. I'm one of those who really doesn't like James -- so I wish you luck. On the other hand, I haven't tried any of his books since I was in college. Maybe I'd have a different reaction.

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    1. Beth F - I think one of the reasons I can enjoy Henry is because I first read him voluntarily.

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  20. Oh, like the White Rabbit, I'm late! But I will try to catch up with everyone. Reading _What Maisie Knew_ will be my new goal. And I look forward to listening in upon (and perhaps joining) the conversations. Thanks, BTW, to Amateur Reader (Tom) for mentioning your read-along party. I hope I can still crash the party.

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    1. R.T. - We'd love to have you crash the party! And you're not late at all. I finally finished reading City on Fire today and will be starting Maisie later tonight or tomorrow. Our plan is to post our thoughts at the end of the month, and perhaps chat on twitter as we read. Glad to have you join us :)

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  21. It sounds like deep and touching story. I'd like to read it for sure.

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  22. I've never read What Maisie Knew, but can't join in another readalong. At least, not today! ;) I have liked what Henry James I've read, but don't know if I have the concentration at the moment as my life is a bit up in the air! It sounds like a very enjoyable readalong!

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    1. Laurie C - You definitely need to save Henry James for a time when there is plenty of brain power available ;-) I can never read him in the evening.

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  23. Hope you enjoy the readalong! I will follow along with your thoughts.

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    1. Athira - So far I am liking this book!

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  24. What a beautiful cover on your edition. I love this book and it is still, sadly, just as relevant today. Have you seen the modern film version?

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    1. Share my Garden - I have not seen the film version, but plan to when I'm done reading. Interesting that they chose to set it in modern time, but as you said, it's just as relevant today...

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