I’ve been re-reading What Maisie Knew in an old edition without notes. I hadn’t appreciated how convoluted and mannered the prose style is, nor (what nobody says) that it is meant to be funny. At any rate can someone clarify the following passage? (What “the word” may be is irrelevant.) “The word stuck in her mind and contributed to her feeling from this time that she was deficient in something that would meet the general desire. She found out what it was; it was a congenital tendency to the production of a substance to which Moddle, her nurse, gave a short ugly name, a name painfully associated at dinner with the part of the joint that she didn’t like.” What is the painful name?
Months after reading What Maisie Knew it has dawned on me that Ida plays a key role in the ending of the novel. We hear nothing of her in the final chapters but her last actions are strange indeed. From the first Ida has been portrayed in an appalling light, particularly in her role as a mother. The divorce court deemed her an unsuitable parent, awarding sole custody to Beale Farange, a man who has nothing whatever to recommend him as a father or a husband. And yet, once Maisie has lost both parents and is bound for France, Ida seeks her out at Folkestone intending to offer her a parting ten pounds, as Ida herself is preparing (we suppose) to emigrate to South Africa - as far from Europe and Maisie as possible. Even stranger, Ida seeks out sacked Mrs Wix and gives her much encouragement as Maisie's future guardian and the ten pounds, although Ida had long withheld even Mrs Wix's paltry wages before telling her to "Bundle." Since Ida has long fought a war with ex husband Beale, it seems plausible that she is firing a salvo at estranged Sir Claude, who is ultimately left alone with the dreadful Mrs Beale. But as collateral damage, Maisie is left with poor, clueless but decent Mrs Wix and her ten pounds. Doesn't the novel ends with what Ida knew?
It's an updated version of the story. Considering the subject, it should work, but I'd miss the charm of the original setting.
What Maisie Knew (1897) is as entertaining as any of the dozen James' novels I've read. The plot moves quickly and James's comment on late Victorian morals is engrossing. It is marvellous how Maissie stay sane and happy in such dissolution. And the end is a testament to the maturing child, who somehow makes sense of her world. Unusually for James, What Maisie Knew held me from the very start, which is more than I can say for the somewhat later novel The Awkward Age (1899) that I'm very slowly reading. Still, I adore Henry James.
I started to read this book a few weeks back but i'm just not getting into it. I'm really not enjoying at at all. I'm wondering if it will get good eventually or if i should just give up now. Its the first Henry James I've read and i'd wanted to read something by him for a while but this has left me thinking. Have i chosen perhaps one of his not so good books to start off with or are they basicly a similar style and i should find greener pastures elsewhere? Help!
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